INTRODUCTION: Young women in sub-Saharan Africa account for two-thirds of all new HIV infections and face high rates of unintended pregnancy. Multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) are promising products under development that are designed to simultaneously prevent HIV and unintended pregnancy. Since MPTs will be used in the context of sexual relationships, ensuring acceptability and use requires understanding the role of male partners in MPT use decision-making.
METHODS: This paper draws on qualitative data from 39 couples enrolled in the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN) 045 study, conducted in 2019-2020. Partners completed a discrete choice experiment (DCE), first separately and then jointly, to measure preferences for future MPT attributes and then completed a qualitative interview. We also draw on quantitative data from interviewer observation about who dominated the decision-making process during the joint DCE. Content analysis was used to examine (1) how couples made decisions on existing non-MPT HIV and pregnancy prevention products; (2) how couples made decisions on future ideal-MPT product during the DCE; and (3) how these decision-making processes varied by decision-making dominance (10 male, 10 female and 19 equal) and interview type (19 joint and 20 separate).
RESULTS: Existing non-MPT product decisions focused on trust between partners and product attributes, while future ideal-MPT product decisions exclusively focused on product attributes. Across existing and future products, preferences for product attributes varied by gender. Male partners were most concerned with limiting side effects impacting sexual pleasure, female partners were most concerned with limiting side effects causing physical symptoms and both were concerned with the return to fertility. Across all dominance and interview types, couples reported making decisions together and female partners were often able to negotiate with male partners for their preferred product or set of product attributes.
CONCLUSIONS: Research activities in this study provided an opportunity for couples to openly present their product attribute preferences to their partner, learn about their partner's attribute preferences, negotiate for their ideal set of attributes and ultimately choose attributes that benefited the couple without disempowering the female partner. Future research should focus on the utility of couple-based decision-making aids or similar tools for facilitating joint MPT decision-making.