, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 339-351

Perspectives Related to the Potential Use of Vaginal Microbicides Among Drug-Involved Women: Focus Groups in Three Cities in the United States and Puerto Rico

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HIV transmission through heterosexual contact remains the greatest risk factor for women globally. Topical microbicides applied intravaginally may offer a female-initiated HIV prevention option for many who are unable or unwilling to use male condoms or who would want additional protection. This article presents results of focus groups in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, with women who use crack or heroin or have male partners who inject illegal drugs. Participants revealed motivation for and openness to using microbicides effective against HIV should they become available. Additional lubrication during intercourse was one of several expected positive features of microbicides; women saw lubrication as a means of enhancing pleasure and reducing condom irritation and breakage while also protecting them from infection. Conversely, some women feared that their male partners would interpret excessive lubrication as an indication of infection, improper hygiene, or evidence of sex with another man. Focus groups also provided insight into how aspects of different women's sexual lives, including partner type, might influence the issues that would concern them if and when they tried out new microbicidal products in the future.