BACKGROUND: HIV and pregnancy prevention are dual health priorities for women, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Drug-eluting fibers offer a dosage form that combines HIV prevention and contraception, but early understanding of end-user perspectives is critical to avoid misalignment between products being developed and preferred product attributes.
METHODS: Focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, among 55 women who had used vaginal products in previous trials. Participants were given the opportunity to feel a sample of electrospun nanofiber (the fabric), see how it dissolves, and give feedback on shape, size and other attributes. Women were also asked to compare the fabric to vaginal gel and film.
RESULTS: Three key themes regarding the acceptability of the fabric emerged: 1) look and feel of the product undissolved vs. undissolved, 2) expected effect on sex, and 3) convenience and ease of use. Upon being presented with the fabric, women were initially distrustful, seeing it as undesirable for vaginal insertion. Women generally approved of the product once they saw it dissolve. However, they stressed the importance of the product not interfering with sex by altering the vaginal environment. Women also reacted favorably to the perceived convenience of the fabric, particularly with regards to storage and transport, perceived ease of insertion and use, and dosing regimen.
CONCLUSION: Multipurpose prevention technologies, and nanofibers in particular, should be developed with an eye to minimizing impact on sex while maximizing convenience, and presented in such a way as to emphasize non-abrasiveness and ease of dissolution.