The need for better HIV prevention options for women has driven the search for a microbicide, a product that could be used to reduce the risk of HIV infection. Microbicides hold promise as a new method that women can control — or at least initiate —to protect themselves from HIV.
Progress in clinical trials suggests that an effective microbicide, which could be inserted in the vagina or rectum, may be within reach. But as we prepare for the eventual introduction of a microbicide, we must recognize that women will still face gender-related barriers to its use.
With support from the U.S. Agency for International Development, FHI 360 conducted two gender analyses — one in Kenya and another one with Sonke Gender Justice in South Africa — to identify these barriers and ways to address them. We reviewed microbicide studies, analyzed HIV and gender policies and population-level data, and interviewed key stakeholders. Results of the analysis were presented today at the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa. Notably, many of the barriers identified are not exclusive to microbicide use; they also apply to other areas of women’s sexual and reproductive health and can be addressed now.