The development of a conceptual framework on PrEP stigma among adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa

J Int AIDS Soc. 2024 Feb;27(2):e26213. doi: 10.1002/jia2.26213.


Introduction: Stigma is a well-known barrier to HIV testing and treatment and is an emerging barrier to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) use. To guide future research, measurement and interventions, we developed a conceptual framework for PrEP stigma among adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in sub-Saharan Africa, a priority population for PrEP.

Methods: A literature review, expert consultations and focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted to adapt the Health Stigma and Discrimination Framework, describing the stigmatization process nested within the socio-ecological framework. We reviewed all articles on PrEP stigma and on HIV, contraceptive or sexuality stigma among AGYW from 2009 to 2019. Expert consultations were conducted with 10 stigma or PrEP researchers and two Kenyan youth advisory boards to revise the framework. Finally, FGDs were conducted with AGYW PrEP users (4 FGDs; n = 20) and key influencers (14 FGDs; n = 72) in Kenya with the help of a Youth Research Team who aided in FGD conduct and results interpretation. Results from each phase were reviewed and the framework was updated to incorporate new and divergent findings. This was validated against an updated literature search from 2020 to 2023.

Results: The conceptual framework identifies potential drivers, facilitators and manifestations of PrEP stigma, its outcomes and health impacts, and relevant intersecting stigmas. The main findings include: (1) PrEP stigma is driven by HIV, gender and sexuality stigmas, and low PrEP community awareness. (2) Stigma is facilitated by factors at multiple levels: policy (e.g. targeting of PrEP to high-risk populations), health systems (e.g. youth-friendly service availability), community (e.g. social capital) and individual (e.g. empowerment). (3) Similar to other stigmas, manifestations include labelling, violence and shame. (4) PrEP stigma results in decreased access to and acceptability of PrEP, limited social support and community resistance, which can impact mental health and decrease PrEP uptake and adherence. (5) Stigma may engender resilience by motivating AGYW to think of PrEP as an exercise in personal agency.

Conclusions: Our PrEP stigma conceptual framework highlights potential intervention targets at multiple levels in the stigmatization process. Its adoption would enable researchers to develop standardized measures and compare stigma across timepoints and populations as well as design and evaluate interventions.

Keywords: Kenya; adolescent girls and young women; conceptual framework; pre-exposure prophylaxis; sexual and reproductive health; stigma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-HIV Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis* / methods
  • Sexual Behavior


  • Anti-HIV Agents