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The Naked Truth The Sexual Health Blog

The future of condoms

August 12th, 2011 by Emily Gangwer, Care Advisor

future of condoms

 Makers of new condoms tout improved safety, pleasure


Did you know that latex condoms were first introduced in 1920? It would seem that we’re due for an upgrade…

Indeed, three patent-pending condoms currently in U.S. clinical trials may reshape the future of the latex-dominated condom industry.

According to Los Angeles-based inventor Dan Resnic, the new ORIGAMI Condoms™ could mark the end of an era for the old latex condom. The prototypes are non-latex, non-allergenic and non-rolled.

What about condoms for anal intercourse? Gay and straight couples alike have long been enjoying anal sex…so it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a condom for this specific sexual activity, too: the ORIGAMI R.A.I. (Receptive Anal Intercourse) is a condom created exclusively for the receptive partner. Made of medical-grade silicon, it’s designed to insert easily…and the active male partner wouldn’t need to wear a condom.

But “bottom condoms” have been around since the early 90s. The Reality™ condom (dubbed the “Female condom,” although it’s also used by gay men) looks like a regular male condom…but it’s bigger and it’s inserted in the anus, instead of rolled onto the penis. It’s made out of skin-like polyurethane, which makes it ideal for people who are allergic to latex.

Why give up latex condoms? Are the new ones really that much better? According to Resnic, the non-latex material of ORIGAMI condoms has been lab-tested against a leading brand of male latex condoms…and preliminary results show that ORIGAMI material has zero viral permeability (compared with the latex condom, which had about 5% viral permeability).

Viral permeability (or, the chances of a virus getting through a protective barrier like a condom) is tested by introducing virus smaller than HIV into sterile water inside the condom, and then suspending the condom in sterile water for 72 hours…the water outside the condom is then tested to detect whether the virus leaked through the condom. The test is repeated in reverse, starting with virus outside the condom and then testing for viral permeability in the opposite direction.

The test is repeated again with pinholes punctured into the condoms. Even with puncture holes, ORIGAMI tested at zero viral permeability, whereas the latex condom failed this test. Plus, ORIGAMI condoms are said to allow for more sensation…and therefore greater pleasure.

More pleasure and improved safety means more consistent use, right? Not a bad combination…especially considering the rising rates of new HIV infections, particularly among young, black men who have sex with men (MSM).

So here’s hoping these new ideas hit the shelves sooner, rather than later.

Photo: Flickr user Capeside, CC.2.0

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