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A Clever Condom August 13, 2009

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Brain Power, Diseases, Human Body, Think About It.
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12 comments

Most teens today are probably familiar with how condoms work. If you’re sexually active, you already know that condoms can help to protect you from sexually transmitted diseases and also reduce the likelihood of an unwanted pregnancy.

But, researchers at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, United States, are trying to create a new gel that acts like a condom. Sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? Yet if all goes well, this new gel could be a surprisingly clever weapon against semen and any bacteria or viruses contained within it! This includes viruses such as HIV.

Creating A Trap

Standard condoms protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.  In developing countries, women need cheaper options that give them control over their sexual health.

Standard condoms protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But in developing countries, women need cheaper options that give them control over their sexual health.

When you picture a condom, you likely picture something more solid, while a gel would be softer, wouldn’t it? Not always so. This particular gel is a liquid when it’s in contact with the vagina – a highly acidic environment. Once alkaline semen makes its way in there though, the gel turns solid. In fact, any particles that are bigger than 50 nanometres are trapped. This includes semen, HIV and even viruses such as the herpes virus.

Getting It Right

This research team isn’t the first to try making a gel to combat HIV. Unfortunately, other teams haven’t been successful at creating an effective gel to protect women against HIV. In fact, one study found that the gel actually increased the rate of HIV infection. You can see that it’s a tough task to get it right.

It’s Not For You

Why isn’t this condom for you? It’s not that you shouldn’t be using one, of course. Researchers are working on this new condom mostly for women in countries where HIV is common. They also want this condom to be a low-cost alternative for women to get protection if their partner won’t wear a condom. In this way, women can take control of their sexual health.

Pick and Choose

With most of my readers being in the United States, Canada and Britain, you can pick and choose from a number of birth control options and condoms. For many of you, these will be provided without cost through your school or sexual health clinics. We’re lucky here to have access to all of these choices. We also live in a society where you can say “no” to sex without a condom and generally, our culture is one where your choice is respected.

So, shouldn’t women all around the world have choices too?

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