Background: The pressing need to expand the biomedical HIV prevention evidence base during pregnancy is now increasingly recognized. Women’s views regarding participation in such trials and initiating PrEP while pregnant are critical to inform evolving policy and best practices aimed at responsibly expanding evidence-based access for this population. Methods: We conducted 35 semi-structured interviews with reproductive-aged women in Malawi in the local language, Chichewa. Participants were HIV-negative and purposively sampled to capture a range of experience with research during pregnancy. Women’s perspectives on enrolling in 3 hypothetical HIV prevention trial vignettes while pregnant were explored, testing: (1) oral PrEP (Truvada) (2) a vaginal ring (dapivirine), and (3) a randomized trial comparing the two. The vignettes were read aloud to participants and a simple visual was provided. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, translated, and coded using NVivo 11. Thematic analysis informed the analytic approach. Results: A majority of women accepted participation in all trials. Women’s views on research participation varied largely based on their assessment of whether participation or nonparticipation would best protect their own health and that of their offspring. Women interested in participating described power dynamics with their partner as fueling their HIV exposure concerns and highlighted health benefits of participation– principally, HIV protection and access to testing/treatment and ancillary care, and perceived potential risks of the vignettes as low. Women who were uninterested in participating highlighted potential maternal and fetal health risks of the trial, challenges of justifying prevention use to their partner, and raised some modality-specific concerns. Women also described ways their social networks and sense of altruism and adherence requirements would influence participation decisions. Conclusions: The majority of participants conveyed strong interest in participating in biomedical HIV prevention research during pregnancy, largely motivated by a desire to protect themselves and their offspring. Our results are consistent with other studies that found high acceptance of HIV prevention products during pregnancy, and support the current direction of HIV research policies and practices that are increasingly aimed at protecting the health of pregnant women and their offspring through responsible research, rather than defaulting to their exclusion.
AIDS Research and Therapy 17Full article