Young women bear a disproportionately high burden of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa, prioritising pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can be an integral part of HIV prevention combination strategies. Women initiated HIV prevention technology options will require consistent adherence, an imperative for product effectiveness. With several PrEP clinical trials underway; exploring women's acceptability to advances in HIV prevention technologies can better facilitate demand creation for future PrEP roll out. This study utilised the opportunity of post-trial access to CAPRISA 008 women (trial) and non-trial women from three geo-spatial settings (urban, rural and peri-urban) to identify microbicide acceptability and how product associations of microbicides can influence future HIV prevention choices. Six participatory workshops using participatory action research with art-based activities and discussion groups were conducted in KwaZulu-Natal with 104 women from various geo-spatial locations and social status to understand microbicide acceptability and product associations. The data were analysed using thematic analysis. The study found that women's acceptability and product association of the tenofovir gel microbicide differed according to rural and urban areas. Most urban women identified confidence, sexiness and classiness as key associations that will encourage microbicide acceptability and use, while rural women identified respect, responsibility and confidence as the key product associations, with increased focus on the individual and collective family/community benefits of product acceptance and use. Urban-rural differences suggest a market segmentation that is contextualised to be locally responsive to promote HIV prevention technologies. Various sexual encounters further determined the types of HIV prevention technologies women would consider. In line with WHO's recommendation that PrEP should be an additional prevention choice for people at risk of HIV, this study underscores the importance of user engagement, understanding product associations and how this can influence product acceptability and promotion of HIV prevention technologies.
Keywords: Pre-exposure prophylaxis; market segmentation; participatory research.