In the US and much of the developed world sex is funny. And at first a new kind of condom might seem like a trivial advancement, especially considering the many diseases and conditions science has yet to address. However, the impact of this new innovation should not me overlooked. Since the dawn of human civilization pregnancy, childbearing, and sexually transmitted diseases have had been major contributing factors in the quality of life for human populations–especially the females in these populations. Preventing unwanted pregnancy and disease has, until now, largely been in the hands of men. This new technology may change that.
A group of researchers from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City have invented a vaginal liquid condom that is effective as both a contraceptive and in preventing the transmission of sexual disease including HIV, papilloma virus (HPV), chlamydia, and others. What makes this “molecular condom” so revolutionary is the fact that it puts women in the driver’s seat. The liquid gel can be inserted into the vagina hours before intercourse and becomes a partial solid when it comes into contact with semen. The ramifications of this new device, which they hope to release in the next 5 years, will be huge.
March is Women’s History month: While I’m generally not a fan of damning or celebrating any grouping of individuals, I will point out that as a group the history of the female sex is one of marginalization, abuse, and disenfranchisement. To a large degree those abuses and lack basic freedoms persist in many cultures. In many countries women simply have no ownership of their lives or bodies–a fundamental principle to individual liberty. In addition to the benefits this liquid condom will provide to couples in developed countries, the new form of birth control and disease prevention has the potential to aid in the liberation and improve conditions of women in societies where their bodies aren’t their own and the risks are great.
Unfortunately for women in the countries with some of the highest rates of STD infection and least access to care, the decisions about sex are not often up to them. As this new technology becomes more available though, all of that may change.
Their goal was to protect women in countries with a high level of HIV-positive people by offering them a rather inexpensive way of contraception and protection when their partners do not wear a condom.
“We did it to develop technologies that can enable women to protect themselves against HIV without the approval of their partner,” says Kiser.
Not to be over-dramatic, but women around the world celebrating Women’s History Month should cheer the researchers behind this condom. They should credit human innovation and technology for helping women around the world take greater ownership of their bodies and their first steps toward freedom.