Towards microbicide rollout in sub-Saharan Africa: ensuring microbicides are an effective tool for HIV prevention and women’s empowerment
Microbicides offer an opportunity to integrate HIV prevention and women’s empowerment. Research from microbicide clinical trials have shown three key ways in which microbicides may contribute to women’s empowerment, namely: microbicides can be used “discreetly” when necessary; as a female initiated HIV prevention tool women are given decision making power; and microbicides can create space for communication, discussion, and building trust. However, there are four key issues that need to be addressed when considering a microbicide as both a tool for HIV prevention and women’s empowerment including: the level of efficacy that should be attained before a microbicide is introduced as a viable prevention option; whether or not microbicides, once available, should be free at the point of access for women; bringing men into the conversation around microbicide use, while still empowering women; and finally, the mindful marketing of microbicides. Microbicides have the potential to roll back HIV infection rates and positively reshape gender relationships if we ensure that they are actively programmed both as a tool for HIV prevention and women’s empowerment.
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