Montgomery ET, Atujuna M, Krogstad E, et al. The Invisible Product: Preferences for Sustained-Release, Long-Acting Pre-exposure Prophylaxis to HIV Among South African Youth. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2019 Apr 15;80(5):542-550. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000001960. PMID: 30865050; PMCID: PMC6426447.
Long-acting injectable and implantable approaches aim to overcome some of the documented challenges with uptake and adherence to current HIV prevention methods. Youth are a key end-user population for these methods. We used qualitative methods to examine product attributes and preferences for current and future long-acting HIV prevention approaches.
Ninety-five South African youth aged 18-24 years, of whom 62 were female and 33 male, completed 50 interviews and 6 focus groups. We purposively selected for previous product experience, including oral pre-exposure prophylaxis, injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis, or the vaginal ring, to ensure participants' opinions were rooted in actual experience.
Irrespective of previous method-use experience, gender, or sexual orientation, the majority expressed a preference for prevention methods formulated as injectables or implants. Several mentioned that their top priority in any product was efficacy, and for some, this overrode other concerns; for example, even if they feared pain, an implant or an injectable would be used if fully protective. Although efficacy was a top priority, there was also a clear desire across all subgroups for a product that would not interfere with sex, would stay in the system to provide protection, and that caused minimal burden, or was not apparent to others, and these characteristics were most salient for long-acting methods.
Narrative explanations for preferences converged thematically around different dimensions of "invisibility" including invisibility to oneself, one's partner and household members, and community members. End-user preferences can be used to inform product development of long-acting HIV prevention approaches formulated as injections or implants to optimize adherence and impact.