As demonstrated by the Phase III clinical trial, MTN-020/ASPIRE, the monthly dapivirine vaginal ring is well tolerated and reduces the risk of HIV-1 as a woman-initiated prevention option. This analysis uses data from the follow-on MTN-032/Assessment of ASPIRE and HOPE Adherence (AHA) qualitative study to understand how perceptions (or misperceptions) of ring efficacy may have influenced behavior during ASPIRE, and affected intention to use the ring in future ring projects, specifically HOPE, the planned open-label extension study. Single in-depth interviews (n = 98) and 12 focus group discussions (n = 89) were conducted with women at seven sites in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Eligibility included participation in the ASPIRE active arm, and ring use for >= 3 months or at least 1 month if seroconversion occurred. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed into English, coded in Dedoose and thematically analyzed. Demographic and behavioral questionnaire data were summarized in Stata. Most AHA participants perceived the ring to be effective, and described simply trusting it or having confidence in it because they, or other participants in risky situations, remained HIV-uninfected. Participants described ring efficacy after receiving ASPIRE results as a binary assessment: the ring worked or not. Many did not remember exact efficacy percentages because of lack of comprehension or memory but recalled key details about age differences. The majority expressed interest in future ring use. There is a need to investigate improved ways of explaining placebo-controlled trials and efficacy to women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now that ring efficacy, is known, these benefits must be well communicated, and understood by end-users and key stakeholders. Engagement with end-users to construct effective messages and to develop tools to measure understanding of partial efficacy will be essential.
Does the ring work? Perceptions and understanding of the efficacy of a Dapivirine vaginal ring for HIV prevention amongst women in a placebo-controlled trial
Etima, J., Katz, A. W. K., Duby, Z., Garcia, M., Palanee-Phillips, T., Reddy, K., Mathebula, F., Zimba, C., Mansoor, L. E., Singh, D., Manengamambo, E., Naidoo, S., Soto-Torres, L., Montgomery, E. T., & MTN 020 ASPIRE MTN 025 HOPE (2022). Does the ring work? Perceptions and understanding of the efficacy of a Dapivirine vaginal ring for HIV prevention amongst women in a placebo-controlled trial. AIDS and Behavior, 26(5), 1597-1606. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-021-03512-5