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Saturday, October 25, 2014 | Last updated: 3:15am

Male birth control could be worth the pain



A new birth control method being tested in India has the potential to completely change birth control for men.

The method involves an injection of polymer gel into the vas deferens (which is near the testicles, for those who haven’t taken a health class in a while), which not only blocks the sperm, but also kills any sperm that make it past the blockade. The procedure is much less invasive than a vasectomy and starts working almost immediately, while a vasectomy can take up to three months to clear out sperm.

Though the thought of having needles anywhere near that area might seem terrifying at first, if the claims researchers are making about the method are true, it might be worth it.

According to scientists currently doing clinical trials, the method, known as Vasalgel, is 100 percent effective and completely reversible.

The polymer has been in clinical trials for years, and some patients have been using it for 15 years with no apparent negative side effects. In addition, a single treatment has been said to last for 10 years.

The Parsemus Foundation, the non-profit behind the polymer, estimates that Vasalgel could be for sale in the U.S. by 2015. The company also aims to make Vasalgel affordable.

While all of this sounds very promising, the question here is whether or not men would actually get the procedure. Even if the benefits live up to the hype, men might not be as likely to get a surgical procedure as they would be to use a condom.

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that men in the 18 to 24 age group only used condoms 44.9 percent of the time.

And when it comes to casual sex, men 18 to 24 years old reported that they used condoms only 46.9 percent of the time.

Of course, the situation changes when alcohol is involved. Another 2010 study published in the Journal of American College Health found that college-aged men said they were less likely to use a condom when drinking heavily, even though overall condom use rates were very similar to the findings in the other study.

Should Vasalgel be accepted for use in the U.S., it could be a game-changer. Given what the data shows about condom use and its relationship to drinking, a reversible procedure like this would be well worthwhile, assuming men overcome the inevitable unease of having something injected into their penis.

As we all know, heavy drinking and sex tend to go hand in hand with college students. If this procedure can reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancy while remaining relatively noninvasive, that’s good news for everyone.

—David Weissman is a journalism junior. He can be reached at
letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.


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