'The study has taught me to be supportive of her': empowering women and involving men in microbicide research.

Published: November 15, 2011


Recognising that women often have little control over most HIV-prevention methods, including condoms, researchers have made efforts to develop new bio-technological interventions, such as microbicides, that could allow women greater autonomy in HIV-prevention decision making. In many situations, women are unable to negotiate condom use with their partners, meaning that they could be better protected through the use of an effective microbicide. This paper uses qualitative data from the Microbicide Development Programme 301 (MDP301) microbicide trial in Johannesburg, South Africa. Data is taken from in-depth interviews with male partners of female trial participants (n = 28), six focus-group discussions involving male partners of trial participants (n = 4) and female participants (n = 2). Data show that men’s involvement in microbicide research ranges from a disinterest in trials to the desire to actively take part in and promote research that affects the health of themselves and their partners. Results showed that some participants were reluctant to disclose trial involvement and product use to their partners, making identifying men as potential research participants problematic. This paper considers how to involve men in microbicide research without undermining women’s sense of empowerment and ownership of the trial and the product that is being tested.

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