Thursday, April 11, 2013

Condoms Not the Way to Spend Bill Gates' Money

Here's my beef though: what really is a better condom design? The call for proposal itself acknowledges all the wonderful things about the male condom: cheap, easy to manufacture, easy to distribute, available globally, and might I end, pretty easy to use too. To me, that seems like a product already well designed.

So why do we even need something "better"?

The proposal says that the problem is that there a lack of perceived incentive for consistent use.  My initial response to that was, seriously? Preventing HIV/AIDs, other STIs and unwanted pregnancies isn't an incentive for most? Incentive is not the word for it: we all know that it's really a lack of understanding and education on proper condom use.
Then the proposal gets worse, stating that "the primary drawback is... condoms decrease pleasure as compared to no condoms" so we need to make something more pleasurable. This argument is not really true. The real problem is of course that of perspective; there is widely held stigmas about the apparent (and not really) decreased pleasure.

Has anyone seriously thought this through? We are still teaching people how to use a condom. We have finally got most of our distribution channels (particularly in the developing world) down. There are examples of areas with drastically reducedHIV/AIDs rates as people accepted condoms into their lives. We're going to change all this? Start over, teach people something else, redistribute it all?

Long story short, we don't need a new, more pleasure-y condom.  We need to change people's perceptions, not change the product itself. We need continued education on how and why to use a condom. We need to keep doing marketing campaigns to get rid of the stigma. That's the true shortcoming of condoms, not the design.