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Microbicides and gender

Microbicides are intended to fill the gap for a much-needed female-initiated HIV prevention method. But, biomedical technology alone will not alter the underlying gender inequalities that make women vulnerable to HIV. If microbicides are found to be effective enough for introduction, women will likely face gender-related barriers to access and use. To maximize the potential that microbicides offer for women to protect themselves, these barriers must be identified and taken into account in product introduction planning.

Under the Preventive Technologies Agreement, supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development, FHI 360 implemented two projects designed to increase understanding of the gender issues that will likely affect women’s microbicide use. Findings, including the role of male partners, will inform the future introduction of a microbicide product.


FHI 360 implemented a gender analysis for microbicide introduction in South Africa (in partnership with Sonke Gender Justice) and Kenya, two countries where early introduction of a microbicide is likely. Conducting a gender analysis offers a systematic way to understand gender-related barriers to women’s microbicide use, identify potential solutions, and generate support for a gender-transformative introduction. FHI 360 developed several resources, including guidance for others wishing to conduct gender analyses for microbicide introduction, technical briefs detailing the findings of the gender analyses in Kenya and South Africa, and advocacy tools to promote uptake of the findings.


FHI 360 conducted formative research to explore ways to engage men in women’s microbicide use. The research included primary and secondary analyses of data from six qualitative studies implemented in conjunction with microbicide clinical trials to answer research questions on partner communication about microbicides, men’s role in women’s microbicide use, and potential strategies for engaging men in future microbicide introduction. Recommendations for engaging men in future microbicide research and product introduction are detailed in Engaging Male Partners in Women’s Microbicide Use: Evidence and Recommendations.

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