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article imageSTD-detecting condoms aren’t coming to a store near you

By Holly L. Walters     Jun 25, 2015 in Health
One of the biggest news stories of the past few days has been focused around the idea that a color-changing condom could actually detect sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
This story was made even better by the fact that the idea for these condoms reportedly came from a group of young boys. Isaac Newton Academy students Muaz Nawaz, 13, Chirag Shah, 14, and Daanyaal Ali, 14, are the bright minds behind this idea, but there is one major issue with the way the media covered this story: the condom does not actually exist yet, and there are some who believe that it never will due to issues with the necessary technology.
Therefore, although these U.K. residents are definitely on to something with their concept, you should not expect to find these STD detecting condoms at a store near you in the near future. The concept that the boys have developed is for a condom that would be called the S.T. EYE. If this condom could actually come to fruition, it would change colors based on a built-in indicator whenever specific strains of bacteria were detected.
For example, if someone wearing this condom was to have intercourse with an individual who has herpes, chlamydia or syphilis, they would end up seeing a fluorescent light. This light would be caused by the chemical reaction between the condom and the bacteria.
Even though the condom does not exist outside of the imagination of its inventors, the concept was deemed praiseworthy enough for the three boys to receive the 2015 TeenTech Award in the category of Healthcare. In addition to the award and all of the media coverage that they have received, these innovative teenagers will be splitting a $1,000 GBD ($1,573 USD) prize, and they get to go to Buckingham Palace where they will meet Prince Andrew.
According to Forbes contributor Tara Haelle, there is no method currently available that would enable the concept of a color-changing condom that detects STDs to actually make it past the testing phase. The reality is that each of the STDs in question requires different types of testing in order to get a conclusive diagnosis.
Dr. Maureen Baldwin from the Oregon Health & Science University indicated that there is no known technology that would enable a condom to perform these tests without compromising the condom’s standard usage. In other words, even if a color-changing, STD detecting condom could be brought to the market in the near future, it would be much more likely to fail at protecting people from unwanted pregnancy and the transmission of the STDs that it detects.
Dr. Baldwin also pointed out that if the technology could be made so that these proposed condoms were able to provide both intended levels of protection, they would undoubtedly need to be made of much thicker material than today’s condoms. This would almost certainly give some individuals sensation issues that would make them less likely to wear a condom, and it is also possible that these thicker condoms could cause irritation issues for both sexual partners.
If all of these issues could be satisfactorily dealt with, there would still be ethical issues to face. As MTV News’ Tess Barker quipped, “this is one #aftersex glow that you probably don’t want.” Consider for a moment how someone would react if they discovered after sex that their partner was carrying an STD. This is a difficult enough situation for people to handle properly when there is time, distance and a medically provided test that confirms the results.
Additionally, getting this news right after the heat of the moment would almost certainly lead to increased cases of domestic violence. When you combine this with the probability for false positives and everyone’s basic right to privacy, these condoms do not seem like a viable future option for preventing the spread of STDs.
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