A Reuters News article recently described the efforts of a German research team to develop “the perfect condom” for men that would be suited to every size of penis, enabling people to enjoy more comfortable and safer sex lives. The researcher reported that his inspiration for this idea came from evaluating and considering the difficulties that many men report when using condoms.
The biggest prevention message since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been to practice safe sex using a latex condom with a water-based lubricant with every intimate encounter. Research studies have confirmed that some people really do experience practical difficulties with the use of condoms. Problems with the use of condoms can make them less effective or cause the couple to be less likely to use them.
* Access to condoms is sometimes reported as a problem. Even though condoms are reasonably priced, the cost may be prohibitive for people who have difficulty making ends meet and live from paycheck to paycheck; condoms may fall to the bottom of the priority list. Couples are encouraged to check if their health insurance will cover all or part of the cost of condoms, or to go to the local Health Department, family planning center, STD clinic, or HIV testing center for access to free condoms.
* Many men report difficulty putting condoms on. Men are encouraged to read the insert in the package and to follow the instructions for putting the condom on properly; they can also get information about condom use at most clinics offering STD testing and testing.
* All men are not built alike, and penises come in a variety of shapes and sizes. One size of latex condom does not fit all men comfortably. Finding the right size and fit for a condom may take some experimenting. Men may prefer a slightly looser or snugger fit, or may want to try a flared condom which is a bit roomier at the head. The important thing is that the condom fits snugly enough so that it does not slip off during intercourse.
* Both slippage and breakage of condoms can be prevented by choosing the right fit and type of condom. If a man’s penis is thick but not exceptionally long, he may need to experiment with sizes to find a condom that is not likely to break. Ultra-strong or thicker latex condoms are recommended for heavy-duty, rough sex or for anal intercourse. Condoms must be used with plenty of water-based lubricant; the use of oils and oil-based lubricants, spermicidal creams, or antifungal vaginal creams will cause the condom to break down and rupture quickly. Condoms have expiration dates and specific storage recommendations that ensure the quality of the latex. If a condom has been stored in a wallet or the glove-box of a car for “emergency use”, it will most likely be prone to breakage and should not be used. In order to prevent the condom from slipping off, the man should apply lubricant to the outside of the condom, never on the penis itself or on the inside of the condom. He should also hold the base of the penis and condom when pulling out after sex to prevent the condom from slipping.
These are the major difficulties reported by couples when using condoms. Now, with the introduction of this new spray-on condom, is it really possible that the days of fumbling with condom wrappers and condoms are going to be a thing of the past?
The research team plans to make the spray-on condom available in different strengths and colors, and hope that it will be on the market by 2008. The projected cost for the device is approximately $13 for 20 applications, which is relatively inexpensive for a condom product.
My opinion is that we will not see this product approved by the U.S. FDA and on the marketplace in the U.S. any time soon, if at all. First of all, in order for the FDA to grant approval, the company will have to conduct extensive tests in order to ensure that the latex is spread evenly over the penis when sprayed. They would also have to submit scientific proof of the quality of the condoms; in the U.S. there is an “acceptable failure rate” for products like latex condoms and latex surgical gloves, and the manufacturers of these products are held to high standards. Given that each spray-on condom is made individually, there does not seem to be any way of accurately determining the quality of the condoms and evaluating the failure rate of the product. In addition, the process of hardening and the degree of elasticity of the condoms, as well as the breakdown of the product for removal will need to be scientifically determined. Another problem would be the possibility of the spraying mechanism becoming clogged by the latex, which could interfere with the proper application of the product.
Lastly, let’s consider one of the major problems with traditional condom use; many couples state that the lack of spontaneity is a major reason for not stopping to use condoms. I have to think that this spray-on protection would elicit the same response from couples. The bottom line is this: the spray-on condom is most likely a pipe-dream that we will not see in the U.S. It is an interesting concept, but it certainly nowhere near ready for “Prime Time”. Continue to stock up on latex condoms for now!