K. Rivet Amico, Melissa Wallace, Linda-Gail Bekker, Surita Roux, Millicent Atujuna, Elaine Sebastian, Bonnie J. Dye, Vanessa Elharrar, Robert M. Grant, Amico KR, Wallace M, Bekker LG, Roux S, Atujuna M, Sebastian E, Dye BJ, Elharrar V, Grant RM. Experiences with HPTN 067/ADAPT Study-Provided Open-Label PrEP Among Women in Cape Town: Facilitators and Barriers Within a Mutuality Framework. AIDS and Behavior. 2017, 21: 1361-1375. PMC5378745
Placebo-controlled trials of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) have reported challenges with study-product uptake and use, with the greatest challenges reported in studies with young women in sub-Saharan Africa. We conducted a qualitative sub-study to explore experiences with open-label PrEP among young women in Cape Town, South Africa participating in HTPN 067/Alternative Dosing to Augment Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Pill Taking (ADAPT). HPTN 067/ADAPT provided open label oral FTC/TDF PrEP to young women in Cape Town, South Africa who were randomized to daily and non-daily PrEP regimens. Following completion of study participation, women were invited into a qualitative sub-study including focus groups and in-depth interviews. Interviews and groups followed a semi-structured guide, were recorded, transcribed, and translated to English from isiXhosa, and coded using framework analysis. Sixty of the 179 women enrolled in HPTN 067/ADAPT participated in either a focus group (six groups for a total of 42 participants) or an in-depth interview (n = 18). This sample of mostly young, unmarried women identified facilitators of and barriers to PrEP use, as well as factors influencing study participation. Cross-cutting themes characterizing discourse suggested that women placed high value on contributing to the well-being of one’s community (Ubuntu), experienced a degree of skepticism towards PrEP and the study more generally, and reported a wide range of approaches towards PrEP (ranging from active avoidance to high levels of persistence and adherence). A Mutuality Framework is proposed that identifies four dynamics (distrust, uncertainty, alignment, and mutuality) that represent distinct interactions between self, community and study and serve to contextualize women’s experiences. Implications for better understanding PrEP use, and non-use, and intervention opportunities are discussed. In this sample of women, PrEP use in the context of an open-label research trial was heavily influenced by underlying beliefs about safety, reciprocity of contributions to community, and trust in transparency and integrity of the research. Greater attention to factors positioning women in the different dynamics of the proposed Mutuality Framework could direct intervention approaches in clinical trials, as well as open-label PrEP scale-up.