Three British students have won the TeenTech awards for proposing a new condom that can detect STDs it comes in contact with. The teenagers—two 14-year-olds and one 13-year-old—said that the condoms can be designed to turn into different colours when they come in contact with different STDs.
Daanyal Ali, Muaz Nawaz, and Chirag Shah call their invention “S.T. Eye” and said they want to help make sex safer.
“There would be antibodies on the condom that would interact with the antigens of STDs, causing the condom to change colors depending on the disease… For instance, if the condom were exposed to chlamydia, it might glow green—or yellow for herpes, purple for human papilloma virus and blue for syphilis”, said Time magazine.
However, there is still ambiguity on how these condoms will work, particularly if the condom will detect STDs that the wearer also has, if the condom will be able to detect more than one STD at a time, and how colourblind people will be able to use the condom.
Regardless, condom brands have become intrigued by the idea and approached the students to develop their concept further because it is an achievable.
Sexual healthcare consultant Mark Lawton told the BBC, “The technology for colour change in the presence of an antigen is certainly something that does happen. It normally requires some additional chemicals in that process…”
Lawton added that the chemicals added would have to be non-toxic and safe for human skin.
What are the TeenTech awards?
TeenTech is an organisation that hosts a series of programmes for young people to increase their interest and knowledge in on scientific fields.
“TeenTech helps young people understand the opportunities in the science, technology and engineering industries, no matter what their gender or social background”, says the organisation.
The TeenTech Awards cater to students in the UK between the ages of 11 and 18.
These students are grouped into teams of three to evaluate issues plaguing society in the fields of education, health, art and music, security, fashion, food, industry, science and technology, environment, and research and put forth an inventive solution to tackle them.
TeenTech says that the awards “encourage students to develop their own ideas for making life better, simpler, safer or more fun.”
Student winners in each category are awarded a cash prize of £1,000 or slightly over Rs 90,000. Overall winners are facilitated by His Royal Highness Duke of York, Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son.
India’s relationship with condoms
In India, condoms aren’t very popular. The government found that condom usage dropped by 52% in the past eight years, along with other contraceptive use in general.
Experts say that social stigma, lack of privacy while buying condoms, and lack of sex education are at the root of low condom use in India.
Durex also engaged in this conversation and asked its Twitter followers why Indian men don’t wear condoms.
Of the 50,946 people who voted, 41% said that condoms “lack feeling”, 25% said they “feel like rubber”, 22% believe that condoms reduced intimacy, and 12% said they “get in the way”. While Durex did not provide more options, the fact remains that Indian men don’t like condoms.
Durex used this information to pivot its advertising campaign #HateCondomsLoveDurexAir for “India’s Thinnest Condom”. The tagline of its marketing strategy is “If you were hating condom, you’ll love Durex Air, so thin, it’s like it’s not even there”.
Before India can adopt colour changing condoms that detect STDs, it will have to improve its contraceptive use overall by establishing sex education in schools, increasing the healthcare budget. Brands can also use their marketing campaigns to spread knowledge and drive home the need for contraception.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius
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