Objectives: The latest advancement in HIV prevention, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), could reduce incidence among women. However, PrEP uptake has remained low among US women since its approval in 2012, while use has increased among men who have sex with men. This study addresses women's knowledge, attitudes and potential behaviors regarding PrEP. While HIV-negative women are the potential users of antiretroviral (ARV) medications for PrEP, HIV-positive women who have used ARVs could contribute immensely to our understanding of the complexities related to taking such medications. This study is the first to synthesize the opinions of both groups of women.
Methods: We conducted eight focus group discussions, segregated by sero-status; four with at-risk HIV-negative (20) and four with HIV-positive (19) women in Washington DC during 2014. Topics discussed include PrEP awareness, likelihood of use, barriers and target populations.
Results: PrEP awareness was almost non-existent and the HIV-negative women urged publicity. They expressed much enthusiasm about PrEP and wanted to use and recommend it to others despite recognizing potential complexities related to taking PrEP, such as side effects, access, duration and frequency of use. HIV-positive women were less supportive of PrEP for those same reasons based on their experience with taking ARVs. They preferred condoms over PrEP given relative efficacy, affordability, accessibility, and prevention of other STIs.
Conclusions: There is an urgent need for PrEP public health campaigns catered to the needs and concerns of women, most importantly bolster their awareness of PrEP.
Keywords: HIV; Pre-exposure prophylaxis; Prevention; United States; Women.