A high-speed condom, designed in South Africa, is poised to take safer sex to new heights in a nation grappling with soaring HIV infection rates.
Roelf Mulder, creator of the product, said he hoped its aesthetic appeal would help change the latex prophylactic usually thought of as a passion killer into a passion filler, while also preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
“This product is not only designed to help reduce the rate of contamination and infection by ensuring users do not touch the condom, but it can also be easily applied in the dark,” he told IRIN PlusNews.
Mulder stressed that the incorrect application of a condom or accidentally rupturing it with the fingernails could lead to the potential spread of STIs.
The new more hygienic condom is opened by means of two thumb-sized handles, which are used to slide it onto the penis. It can only be applied in one way. The applicator then pops off the bottom, and the entire operation is complete in just three seconds, compared to the 30 to 40 seconds needed to don the traditional or government issue item.
Welcoming the innovative addition to this well-known preventive tool, local sexual behaviour experts expressed concern that the product might become a “fleeting novelty” due to its limited market appeal and slightly higher cost.
Clinical sex therapist Elna McIntosh said, “Hopefully the applicator will not become a luxury and end up gathering dust on store shelves as a result of its retail price.”
Although the product is not yet available on the market, Mulder said his company was looking at a cost of between US$3 and $4 per pack of three, but this could drop dramatically if the product was included in the government’s free condom rollout campaign.
The South African government distributes 30 million free male condoms per month and recently announced plans to more than double this in coming months.
Mulder started thinking about ways of enhancing condom usage after looking at the research into South Africa’s HIV prevention problem and finding that “low condom use was still a real factor” in the ongoing spread of HIV and other STIs.
“The intention of the applicator is to make more people use condoms more readily … this is a small product that could have one of the biggest impacts on our social, cultural and economic future,” he said.
An estimated 5.5 million people are living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa – one of the world’s highest figures.