Hey, lovebirds: Who needs condoms?

male contraception
Karlesha Hewitt

By Karlesha V. Hewitt
What becomes of a world
safe enough for people in love
to make love without worrying?
A brief article on Jezebel.com is calling it the “male birth control nobody’s talking about.” Unfortunately, this seems to be a vicious reality.
Many people haven’t even heard of the male contraceptive RISUG, which stands for Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance. RISUG, brand-named Vasagel, is slated for testing in the U.S. later this year, according to the journal Health, which describes it as a spermicidal polymer gel injected into the tube that sperm travel through. Chemicals in the gel make the sperm immobile, and thus unable to fertilize an egg. RISUG offers an alternative to the well-known vasectomy.
The sperm-killing gel can be flushed away by another injection to restore fertility. In fact, newmaleconctracption.org says the reversal procedure can be performed whenever a man wants, whether after days or years. According to the Health article, the RISUG procedure is effective just 15 minutes after completion and lasts a decade.
Sound crazy? I can imagine your surprise. I felt overwhelmed with “what-ifs” when my roommate first spoke of this unfamiliar method of contraception.
I guess it is important to know that the Male Contraception Information Project says RISUG has undergone decades of study, as well as development and testing on animals and humans in India since the first clinical trials in 2002.
An older post on newmalecontraception.org claimed that the goal for RISUG was to have it on the market as Vasagel in the U.S. as early as 2015, with clinical trials beginning in 2012.
In 2010, The Parsemus Foundation (with a mission of “finding low-cost solutions neglected by the pharmaceutical industry”) bought the rights to test and develop RISUG in the United States. Now Parsemus needs more funding to continue regulation-mandated preclinical studies of RISUG, and MCIP is campaigning for more widespread awareness and support of the project.
So what are you thinking? Do people really give a damn about male contraception? What good can RISUG do for the world? Jezebel.com offers some insight, stating that RISUG could help poor couples limit their families and thus increase their chances of escaping poverty. In the developed countries, it would help relieve women of the risks of long-term use of birth control pills and give men a more reliable, less annoying option than condoms.
About half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. The likely results of RISUG seem all good: fewer unwanted kids, fewer single parents, and fewer abortions.
Newmalecontraception.org says the method could be ideal for men who think they are finished having children but would like the chance to change their minds in case of remarriage or the death of a child – and it might even be appropriate for men who want to space their children, or young men who want to complete their education before having children.
The biggest question I have is, would males actually use RISUG? Are we ready for this male contraceptive? I am undecided.
Still, it’s nice to know that I will live to see this new male contraceptive method come into fruition. If you are in a hurry to see RISUG on the market, show larger funders that there’s demand and that they should partner with Parsemus to get the job done. You can do this by adding your voice to MCIP’s short, no-spam petition to funders; just Google the site.
If you don’t see yourself going through the trouble, it is a wonderful thing to be informed either way.