Bill Gates has awarded an Australian university $100,000 in funding to develop skin-like condoms that can make men "want to wear one".
Researchers at the University of Wollongong are working on a "next generation" substitute for latex condoms using a hydrogel-based material designed to "act, feel and look" more like real skin.
Hydrogels are made up water and held together by a network of polymers. It is softer than latex, can be stretched and is self-lubricated. Their goal is to develop a strong, safe and more pleasurable condom that will make men "want to wear one" rather than "having" to use it.
"The funding will help us find the right material appropriate for the condom," said biomedical engineer research fellow Robert Gorkin, who is leading the project.
Condoms are used by an estimated 750 million people worldwide but still suffer from complaints that too much pleasure is sacrificed for safety. Last year, the Microsoft founder told an ask-me-anything audience on Reddit that current designs are not good enough.
He added: "The idea was that men don't like the current design so perhaps something they would be more open to would allow for less HIV transmission. We still haven't gotten the results."
The Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation has awarded more than $100,000 to 11 groups to develop a "new generation of condoms that significantly preserve or enhance pleasure" in an effort to stop the spread of HIV and unplanned pregnancies.
Last November, a team of researchers at the University of Manchester also received a grant from the Gates Foundation to develop a new prototype by mixing graphene with an elastic polymer similar to latex.
More than 33 million people around the world are currently living with HIV, and more than 30 million people have died from HIV-related complications since the earliest cases were detected in the 1980s.