Condoms are one of the first artificial contraceptives used and are effective at stopping the spread of viral and bacterial sexually transmitted infections and prevent pregnancy if used properly. Male condoms are cheap, easy to transport and produce and 15 billion condoms are used a year with an estimated 750 million users.

The problem is that many men around the world do not like to use condoms because of the perceived loss of sensitivity and pleasure from sex using protection. Many men find this unacceptable because in the heat of the moment they don't think about long-term consequences; they're living in the moment. Many times this can result in the transmission of STDs and can cause unwanted pregnancy. But is there a better way to change mindsets?

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pledging $100,000 to promising ideas and up to $1 million for ideas that have been deemed to have huge potential to be game changers. They are encouraging inventors, scientists and just about anyone to submit a two page proposal

The attempt is to bring together people from different backgrounds (neurobiology, vascular biology, etc) or inventors who will have ideas about different designs that may work better and be more durable. They feel that using new materials may preserve or even enhance sensation while preserving the integrity of the protection a condom offers.

Condoms have been used for around 400 years; with people originally using dried animal intestines as a sheath to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Technology has advanced quite a bit in the last few centuries and condoms are now produced and distributed worldwide. Latex condoms were introduced in the early 1900's and the design has barely changed in the last 50 years. This is one reason that that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation see the potential to make large strides in public health.

Innovative ideas for condom design don't need to be high tech or made of some exotic material. For example Origami Condoms offer a design improvement that replicates the sensations of unprotected sex, with no loss of safety.

More information about the 11th Round Grand Challange from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation click here.