Daily Design Inspiration 8: the “Super Condom” (#DailyDesignInspirations)

(After a gap of two days, we are back! Thanks for the fantastic response – really happy and humbled!)

Today, we focus on what can be an absolutely path-breaking innovation that can help us fight HIV.

The Problem:
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a lentivirus that causes HIV infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. Without treatment, average survival time after infection with HIV is estimated to be 9 to 11 years, depending on the HIV subtype.

In the United States, sexual contact is the most common route of HIV transmission. The CDC has published that of the 48,100 people who they estimated became infected in 2009, 57% were men who contracted HIV through sex with other men. HIV transmitted through sexual activity among heterosexuals accounted for 31% of new infections, with most of these cases among women infected by men.

Heterosexual intercourse is the most common mode of HIV transmission in many resource-poor countries. In Africa slightly more than 80% of infections are acquired heterosexually, while in Latin America, heterosexual transmission cases are rising. Heterosexual contact and injection of drugs are the main modes of HIV transmission in South and South East Asia.

In 2014, an estimated 36.9 million people were living with HIV (including 2.6 million children) – a global HIV prevalence of 0.8%.The vast majority of this number live in low- and middle- income countries. In the same year, 1.2 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses.

25.8 million people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 70% of the global total. Only 54% of all people living with HIV know that they have the virus.

The reason why sexual activity is a risk for HIV transmission is because it allows for the exchange of body fluids. Researchers have consistently found that HIV can be transmitted via blood, semen, and vaginal secretions. It is also true that HIV has been detected in saliva, tears, and urine. However, HIV in these fluids is only found in extremely low concentrations.

The Idea

Aiming to increase global use of condoms as a way to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, researchers including an Indian-American professor have developed a new non-latex condom to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, which has killed 39 million people since its outbreak in 1981.

The hydrogel condom contains antioxidants that have the ability to kill the deadly virus even after breaking. This piece of marvel has been developed a team of researchers at Texas A&M University which also includes Professor Mahua Choudhury, an Indian-American.

How will it help?

  • The revolutionary condom is made of an elastic polymer called hydrogel, and includes plant-based antioxidants that have anti-HIV properties.
  • “We are not only making a novel material for condoms to prevent the HIV infection, but we are also aiming to eradicate this infection if possible,” Choudhury, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, said.
  • The condom material already exists as a water-based hydrogel for medical purposes such as contact lenses, researchers said.
  • In addition to providing protection against STDs and pregnancy, researchers enmeshed in the hydrogel design the antioxidant quercetin. If the condom breaks, the quercetin would be released for additional protection.
  • Researchers hope the condom will enjoy greater use and have a stronger effect at preventing the spread of HIV as the new design is more comfortable and also heightens sexual pleasure.

The material used in the condom to kill the virus is already in use as a water-based hydrogel for medical purposes such as contact lenses. The hydrogel is already used for medical purposes such as for making contact lenses. The researches have included the antioxidant quercetin in the hydrogel design which will be released if the condom breaks. Quercetin prevents the replication of the HIV virus and if the condom breaks during the act, the antioxidant can offer additional protection by killing the virus.

When will the condom be available?

The condom is all set to enter the market but it’s patent application is yet to be approved. So once the patent is approved the researchers hope to test the condoms in the next six months. Once in the market, the condom will be available to everyone including those in rural areas where these type of resource is limited.

mahua-chou

Prof. Mahua Choudhury is an Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Centre’s Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy and is the inventor of this revolutionary new condom. Prof. Choudhury studied Molecular Biology, Biophysics and Genetics in India before getting her PhD in the US, has been researching diabetes and the obesity epidemic. She was one of 54 people awarded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Grand Challenge in Global Health” grant. This year’s initiative asked winning recipients to create an affordable, latex-free condom to help battle the HIV epidemic, which is currently affecting 35 million people in the world.

“If you can make it really affordable, and really appealing, it could be a life-saving thing,” Choudhury said.

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