‘Why would you promote something that is less percent safer than a condom?’: Perspectives on partially effective HIV prevention technologies among key populations in South Africa

  • Clara Rubincam
  • Peter A. Newman
  • Millicent Atujuna
  • Linda-Gail Bekker
Keywords: Biomedical HIV prevention, translational research, qualitative methods


New biomedical prevention technologies (NPTs) for HIV, including oral Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and vaginal and rectal microbicides and HIV vaccines in development, may contribute substantially to controlling the HIV  epidemic. However, their effectiveness is contingent on product acceptability and adherence. We explored perceptions and understanding of partially effective NPTs with key populations in South African townships. From  October 2013 to February 2014, we conducted six focus groups and 18 individual interviews with Xhosaspeaking adolescents (n = 14), adult men who have sex with men (MSM) (n = 15), and adult heterosexual men (n = 9) and women (n = 10), and eight key informant (KI) interviews with healthcare workers. Interviews/focus groups were transcribed and reviewed using a thematic approach and framework analysis. Overall, participants and KIs indicated scepticism about NPTs that were not 100% efficacious. Some participants equated not being 100% effective with not being  completely safe, and thus not appropriate for dissemination. KIs expressed
concerns that promoting partially effective NPTs would encourage   substitution of a more effective with a less effective method or encourage risk compensation. Educational and social marketing interventions that address the benefits and appropriate use of partially effective NPTs, including education and support tailored for frontline service providers, are needed to prepare for successful NPT implementation in South Africa.

Keywords: Biomedical HIV prevention; translational research; qualitative methods


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1813-4424
print ISSN: 1729-0376