In Western societies as we have fewer babies we’re becoming less fertile, so what is The Future of Sex?
Laureate Professor John Aitken is one of the world’s leading reproductive biologists and is concerned that the search for new methods of contraception is desperately underfunded.
“There has been no new contraceptive introduced since the 1960s. Not one pharmaceutical company has an R&D program in contraception. They will sell the contraceptives they have, tinker with the pharmacology, but there’s nothing new.”
According to Prof Aitken it’s all about risk, “New contraceptives have to be all benefit and no risk.”
“I could develop an anti-cancer reagent that would save your life but would cause all your hair to fall out. You’d be willing to accept a certain amount of negative side effect because the positive benefit is so great, but contraceptives are the only drug we give to well people so it’s got to be all benefit and no risk.”
“The risk that you’ll develop a deep vein thrombosis because you’re on the pill is probably less than the risk that you’ll get hit by a bus, nevertheless the risk wouldn’t have existed if you hadn’t been taking the pill.”
Prof Aitken’s concern is that 20th century contraceptives are not suitable for us in the 21st century and that the lack of development in this area needs to be confronted.
“In our century we have a global pandemic of sexually transmitted diseases that just weren’t around in the 1960s – now you have AIDS, and in NSW we have a pandemic in chlamydia infections, so we need dual purpose contraceptives that not only protect you against pregnancy but also STDs.”
Given that there continues to be resistance to the use of barrier methods such as condoms, Prof Aitken’s research is looking at developing chemical methods that are locally applied.
“Imagine a small sponge impregnated with a material that is inactive until it comes into contact with human semen – it suddenly becomes activated and produces factors that both immobilise sperm immediately and also deal with any pathogenic microbe that might be present, so it’s a dual purpose contraceptive microbicide.”
Laureate Professor John Aitken’s public seminar, ‘The Future Of Sex’, will be held at the Watt Street Arc, today 2 June 2015 at 5.45pm. Click for details and to register.