Favoring "peace of mind": A qualitative study of African women's HIV prevention product formulation preferences from the MTN-020/ASPIRE trial
Several formulations of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) have shown varying levels of effectiveness in women. Little information is known about preference across formulations, especially among product experienced women. Seventy-one women (48% married; median age 26; range 18-45) who were participating in a vaginal ring trial for HIV prevention in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe underwent an in-depth interview at their last study visit, during which they were presented with pictures and descriptions of nine possible product formulations (male and female condoms, oral tablets, injectables, implants, and a vaginal gel, ring, insert, and film). Each formulation was discussed, highlighting salient attribute(s) and contextual factors that may have informed stated preferences. Participants expressed most interest for long-acting PrEP formulations (rings, 94%; implants, 39%; injections, 34%), which were generally favored over short-acting ones. Participants appreciated the continuous protection offered, discreet usage, and the advantage of peace of mind imparted by simplified use and infrequent dosing, alleviating worries around forgetting doses. Preferred attributes of short-acting formulations included reversibility, user control, ease of administration, and low toxicity. Participants were least interested in the oral tablets (due to the daily dosing, difficulty swallowing pills, and HIV-related stigma), and the vaginal gel and film (due to vaginal insertion, coital dosing, effect on sex. and unfamiliarity with the method). Dislike for vaginally administered products was more pronounced among young women. Multiple factors played into potential users' considerations for preferred formulations, emphasizing how a suite of options for prevention might best respond to women's needs and wants.