A Color-Changing Condom Could Revolutionize Sexual Health

June 24th 2015

Three U.K. teens -- ages 13 and 14 -- are on the noble road to building a building a better condom. Muaz Nawaz, Daanyaal Ali, and Chirag Shah from London’s Isaac Newton Academy debuted their innovative concept at the TeenTech Awards this week: a condom that changes color when it detects specific sexually transmitted infections or STIs.

What is this invention?

The invention -- which is “very much a concept and... not a finalized design” a TeenTech representative told the Daily Dot's EJ Dickson -- is called the S.T. EYE (get it?). The condom would have a thin layer of molecules on it that would change colors depending on the type of infection detected: possibly yellow for herpes, green for Chlamydia, blue for syphilis, and purple for human papillomavirus (HPV), according to the Daily Mail.

It is unclear if this would detect the potential STI on the condom wearer, or just the person the condom wearer is having intercourse with. (If it only detects it on the latter, there could be some problems, Dickson points out.)

Why is this important?

Sexual health is a big deal. Globally, STIs are in the top five diseases that adults seek treatment for, according to the World Health Organization. There are more than 30 parasites, bacteria, and viruses that can be transmitted through sexual contact. and more than one million people get an STI every day, according to the WHO. The soaring rates of STIs is what motivated the teens to come up with the S.T. EYE. 

“We wanted to create something that makes detecting harmful STIs safer than ever before, so that people can take immediate action in the privacy of their own homes without the invasive procedures at the doctors,” Daanyaal Ali told the Daily Mail. “We've made sure we're able to give peace of mind to users and make sure people can be even more responsible than ever before.”

It is also quite telling that these three young men want to make a better condom, considering the stigma around condom useAs ATTN: reported in April, many people do not like using condoms. It was even reported that college sophomores were reportedly opting out of using them.

Bill Gates and others have been trying to develop a better condom that will prevent STIs and be pleasurable to use. (ATTN: looked at different types of condoms here.)

Another potential positive outcome could be breaking down the stigma of discussing STIs. With the use of this conceptual condom we will need better tools of communication to answer the question "what do you do if the condom changes color?" Hopefully this will prompt more openness and education about STIs, their prevalence, and ways to be tested and treated.

How to get checked for STIs

The invention is still in the conceptual stages, so sadly it will be awhile before you can see if your partner has an STI with the color-change of a condom. So how do you know if you have an STI? In the U.S., doctors will not automatically test for sexually transmitted infections at an annual checkup, according to the American Sexual Health Association. You should ask for a checkup if "you’ve had unprotected sex, have a new partner (or more than one partner), or for any reason are worried you have been exposed to an STI," the American Sexual Health Association says on its I Wanna Know website. It is also possible to have an STI without having noticeable symptoms, so it is important to be tested if you're sexually active. If you need help finding a place to get tested check out these resources.

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