The dapivirine vaginal ring (“the ring”) reduced HIV acquisition by about 35% in phase III trials, with modeling from open-label extension trials estimating 50% HIV protection with consistent use. The ring may be used without male partner knowledge. The Assessment of ASPIRE and HOPE Adherence (AHA) substudy aimed to understand the impact of sociocontextual issues on ring adherence. This subanalysis provides insight into disclosure and male partner influence on ring acceptability.
Data were collected using 4 focus group discussions with 18 male partners of phase III trial participants at 2 sites in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Qualitative data were coded, summarized by urban vs. rural location, and analyzed thematically.
Male partners aged 23–49 years wanted to be informed about the ring use to maintain the trust in their relationships. Their initial response to the ring was characterized by fear due to perceived impact of the ring on their female partner's reproductive system, their penile safety, and that the ring would encourage women to engage in unprotected sex and infidelity. Over time and with information and experience with having a partner who had used the vaginal ring, this fear transformed to support for women to have their own HIV prevention option.
Male partners supported the ring as an HIV prevention method for women but wanted to be informed about its use. Engaging male partners on female-initiated HIV prevention methods and increased education among rural men may contribute to improved partner support and facilitate women's consistent use.