INTRODUCTION: In the USA, incarcerated women are disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. Transitioning from incarceration into the community is accompanied by elevated risk behaviours related to acquisition of STIs, yet few efficacious interventions address sexual health prevention among incarcerated women.
METHODS: We conducted an exploratory qualitative study with 21 incarcerated women at four women's state prison facilities in two Northeastern states in the USA. Qualitative data were gathered from four focus groups to guide future intervention development. Focus group discussions were guided by a semi-structured protocol exploring perceptions of sexual health prevention methods, experience with implementing prevention technologies and protective behaviours, and strategies to overcome challenges in implementing sexual health prevention behaviours. Focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
RESULTS: Women described challenges in uptake of existing low-cost sexual health prevention strategies such as condoms. They identified strategies to facilitate use of prevention tools, and to increase protective behaviours relating to sexual health during the transition from incarceration to the community. For example, women described methods for eroticising male and female condoms, including selecting condoms with novel features, explaining to partners that condoms could increase sexual pleasure, and incorporating condom application into foreplay and/or oral sex.
CONCLUSION: Incorporating these insights, including how to eroticise safe sex, can inform the design of future preventive interventions tailored to meet the urgent sexual health needs of incarcerated women preparing for reintegration into the community.
CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT01907126.