Microbicides for HIV/sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention are still in development. Microbicide acceptability studies have thus focused on soliciting input from individuals about hypothetical products using traditional epidemiological and behavioral research methodologies. Here, we integrate a well-established market research method, conjoint analysis, with more traditional epidemiological and behavioral research to examine potential users' preferences for different microbicide formulations.
Focus group discussions (n = 67) were held with a diverse population of young men and women (aged 18-32 years) from Northern California. Then, young women participated in structured surveys (n = 321) that included a conjoint study, a methodology not yet used in microbicide acceptability. The main outcome measures were intentions for different microbicide formulations, inferred preferences for microbicide characteristics, and self-reported risk factors for HIV, other STIs, and pregnancy.
Risk of STIs and unwanted pregnancies is a concern within this population. Participants' responses suggest that the ideal microbicide would (1) offer protection from pregnancy, HIV, STIs, and vaginal infections, (2) offer as much protection as condoms, (3) allow insertion up to 8 hours prior to sexual activity, (4) be available over the counter (OTC), (5) be inserted with an applicator, and (6) have only slight leakage not requiring a panty liner. The average predicted purchase probability for this ideal microbicide was 69%.
Our findings help illustrate microbicide product preferences and demand among young women in California, and the methodological approach should lend itself to other populations as well as during clinical trials when understanding product use and nonuse is critical.