Objective: To give an historical record of the research of the World Health Organization (WHO) Task Force to develop methods of male contraception; to examine the social, political, medical, pharmaceutical, funding, and other factors that influenced progress; and to suggest reasons why such methods are only now becoming available.
Design: Review of basic and clinical research over 30 years.
Setting: Task force of a multinational agency and collaborating agencies.
Conclusion(s): Through the involvement of many international scientists, the WHO Task Force has uniquely contributed to the exploratory phases of the research in male contraception and by its multicenter contraceptive efficacy studies has accelerated progress towards the ideal hormonal method. Despite an adverse climate involving social and political attitudes, funding constraints, and pharmaceutical industry hesitation, WHO formed coalitions with governments and international agencies to sustain research with results that apply to men in culturally diverse populations and thereby to influence activities across the whole range of global reproductive health and family planning.