Condoms offer an inexpensive and readily-available form of contraception that is highly effective when used correctly. Unfortunately, however, many people don’t like to use them because they find that they can make sex uncomfortable. That’s why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a program in 2015 that calls on scientists and engineers to find innovative new ways to encourage condom use.
Now, three years later, funding from this program is helping a team of researchers at Boston University create self-lubricating condoms that become slippery on contact with bodily fluid.
These condoms utilize a “hydrophilic” coating that is similar to the coatings used to make urinary catheters more comfortable. This coating adheres to latex and holds a thin layer of water on the outside of the condom. When it comes in contact with water or bodily fluid, the coating becomes slippery, thereby lubricating the condom. The coating also reportedly stays slippery far longer than conventional lubricants.
“Maybe this can have a chance to increase condom use and the spread of HIV and other disease,” said BU bioengineering professor Mark Grinstaff in an interview with NBC News. “Those individuals who don’t regularly use a condom because it is uncomfortable or because they don’t like it say they would be likely to use a product like this.”
The research team is currently awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical trials on the self-lubricating condoms next year. If successful, the self-lubricating coating could become the most significant innovation in condom design in decades.