A million dollar bounty for a better condom, a condemned campaign in Kenya, a banned effort in Boston, a Philippine law on hold, a call for safer sex in Papua New Guinea prisons, an Indonesian province’s approach, and a Malaysian condom maker’s plans for the future, are keeping condoms in headlines around the world.
If you build it . . . : If you can make a plausible plan to build a better condom, the Gates foundation will fund it through its Grand Challenges in Global Health Program. Ideas that might be considered include: finding ways to use new materials that may preserve or enhance sensation, design and testing of new condom shapes that make for “an improved user experience,” and applying science, such as neurobiology or vascular biology to find ways to make condoms more desirable.The foundation won’t fund solely social or educational plans, the development of products too expensive for a developing world setting, or products that are all play and no work — that enhance the fun, but at the cost of pregnancy and disease prevention viability.
Condom commercial blows up controversy: Informed by research showing HIV infections on the rise among the married and middle-aged in Kenya, and sponsored by USAID, the Weka Condom Mpangoni commercial blew up a storm of outrage among Kenyan clergy members who said it “depicts the nation as Sodom and Gomorrah,” and “propagates immorality.” In it, two Kenyan women shopping for vegetables discuss the wisdom of using condoms for sexual liaisons outside of marriage. In spite of the “stiff opposition” cited in the article that got the ad pulled from the air, the story continues to unfold with the country’s National AIDS Control saying the commercial will return.
Banned in Boston: This story about Boston College officials’ threat of disciplinary action against students running “Safe Sites,” a network of dorm rooms providing free male and female condoms, lubricants and sexual health information, raises the question “What would Jesuits do?” College officials say students’ efforts run counter to “the values and traditions of Boston College a Jesuit, Catholic institution.” Students say the service fills a need the university is not addressing, and it is in keeping with the Jesuit mission, affirming “the whole person.” This story, too, is bound to continue to unfold, with the American Civil Liberties Union threatening legal action against the college.
Philippine law requiring condoms in health centers on hold: A law requiring health centers to have free condoms on hand, and schools to provide education on sex took 10 years to pass, and now won’t go into effect for at least another three months following a decision by the nation’s highest court to suspend the law while those who call the law “evil” prepare their arguments. The law came under fierce fire from the start from the Catholic Church, the spiritual home for an estimated 80 percent of the country’s 100 million people, according to the article. The Philippines have seen a late, but burgeoning HIV epidemic in recent years.
Hotels urged to stock condoms and Qurans: The condoms are being provided by Indonesia’s National AIDS Commission, the Qurans are courtesy of the Goronatalo municipal religious affairs department, in this city with the highest numbers of HIV infections in the Gorontalo province of Indonesia. The hotels are getting the condoms because “high risk sexual practices were common in such places,” and getting the Qurans “to draw guests attention to religious matters,” the article says.
A call for condoms in prisons: “All prisoners must have condoms,” one of the authors of a study showing that unsafe, forced and consensual sex was putting prisoners at risk in Papua New Guinea’s overcrowded detention centers. Condoms are part of the country’s HIV prevention efforts — but not widely in prisons, in part because sex between men is illegal.
Malaysian manufacturer mixes business and pleasure: This look inside the Karex condom factory where about half the output goes to government and international agency health efforts gives a glimpse of the history and future of a growing business.