Communicating about microbicides with women in mind: Tailoring messages for specific audiences

Type Journal Article - Journal of the International AIDS Society
Title Communicating about microbicides with women in mind: Tailoring messages for specific audiences
Volume 17
Issue 3Suppl 2
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014

Current HIV prevention options are unrealistic for most women; however, HIV prevention research has made important strides, including on-going development of antiretroviral-based vaginal microbicide gels. Nevertheless, social-behavioural research suggests that women's ability to access and use new HIV prevention technologies will be strongly influenced by a range of socio-cultural, gender and structural factors which should be addressed by communications and marketing strategies, so that these products can be positioned in ways that women can use them.


Based on an extensive literature review and in-country policy consultation, consisting of approximately 43 stakeholders, we describe barriers and facilitators to HIV prevention, including potential microbicide use, for four priority audiences of Kenyan women (female sex workers [FSWs], women in stable and discordant relationships, and sexually active single young women). We then describe how messages that position microbicides might be tailored for each audience of women.


We reviewed 103 peer-reviewed articles and reports. In Kenya, structural factors and gender inequality greatly influence HIV prevention for women. HIV risk perception and the ability to consistently use condoms and other prevention products often vary by partner type. Women in stable relationships find condom use challenging because they connote a lack of trust. However, women in other contexts are often able to negotiate condom use, though they may face challenges with consistent use. These women include FSWs who regularly use condoms with their casual clients, young women in the initial stages of a sexual relationship and discordant couples. Thus, we consider two approaches to framing messages aimed at increasing general awareness of microbicides – messages that focus strictly on HIV prevention and ones that focus on other benefits of microbicides such as increased pleasure, intimacy or sexual empowerment, in addition to HIV prevention.


If carefully tailored, microbicide communication materials may facilitate product use by women who do not currently use any HIV prevention method. Conversely, message tailoring for women with high-risk perception will help ensure that microbicides are used as additional protection, together with condoms.

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