A Saturday morning cartoon is completely out of the question.Credit: Onime, dreamstime.comSome folks have decided to approach resistance to using condoms during sex by calling on the power of the government to mandate it. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, though, is pursuing a different path. The foundation is incentivizing the development of a better condom with a $100,000 grant.

Their foundation blog explains why better condoms are so important to improving public health:

It may seem obvious, but the success and impact of any public health tool hinges on that tool being used consistently and correctly by those who need it.  Vaccines sitting on shelves don’t prevent disease.  New tuberculosis drug regimens won’t help if patients stop taking them halfway through the necessary days.  Likewise, the potential value of condoms is limited by inconsistent use. 

Women, particularly those in high risk groups such as commercial sex workers, often face difficulties negotiating condom use; the fact that the term “condom negotiation” even exists and is so common in discussions about HIV prevention or reproductive health speaks to the central shortcoming of our current generation of condoms. The undeniable, and unsurprising, truth is that most men prefer sex without a condom, while the risks related to HIV infection and complications of unplanned pregnancy are disproportionately borne by their partners.

While they note other innovations currently in research to help prevent disease transmission and unwanted pregnancy, their focus for this Grand Challenge of Global Health is to specifically focus on condoms.

You can read the guidelines and what they will or will not consider (such as banana subsidies for sex-ed classes) here. Long ago, I wondered if condom companies should use the Starbucks system of sizing their products so that every man was left with the impression he was larger than usual and thus get an ego boost every time he bought them. I think, though, condom companies have already figured that trick out.