The Promise of Intravaginal Rings for Prevention: User Perceptions of Biomechanical Properties and Implications for Prevention Product Development

PLoS One. 2015 Dec 22;10(12):e0145642. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0145642. eCollection 2015.


Intravaginal rings (IVRs) are currently under investigation as devices for the delivery of agents to protect against the sexual transmission of HIV and STIs, as well as pregnancy. To assist product developers in creating highly acceptable rings, we sought to identify characteristics that intravaginal ring users consider when making decisions about ring use or non-use. We conducted four semi-structured focus groups with 21 women (aged 18-45) who reported using an IVR in the past 12 months. Participants manipulated four prototype rings in their hands, discussed ring materials, dimensionality, and "behavior," and shared perceptions and appraisals. Five salient ring characteristics were identified: 1) appearance of the rings' surfaces, 2) tactile sensations of the cylinder material, 3) materials properties, 4) diameter of the cylinder, and 5) ring circumference. Pliability (or flexibility) was generally considered the most important mechanical property. Several ring properties (e.g., porousness, dimensionality) were associated with perceptions of efficacy. Women also revealed user behaviors that may impact the effectiveness of certain drugs, such as removing, rinsing and re-inserting the ring while bathing, and removing the ring during sexual encounters. As product developers explore IVRs as prevention delivery systems, it is critical to balance product materials and dimensions with use parameters to optimize drug delivery and the user experience. It is also critical to consider how user behaviors (e.g., removing the ring) might impact drug delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Contraceptive Devices, Female*
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy