Vaginal film for prevention of HIV: using visual and tactile evaluations among potential users to inform product design
Topical prevention of HIV and other STIs is a global health priority. To provide options for users, developers have worked to design safe, effective and acceptable vaginal dissolving film formulations. We aimed to characterize user experiences of vaginal film size, texture and color, and their role in product-elicited sensory perceptions (i.e. perceptibility), acceptability and willingness to use. In the context of a user-centered product evaluation study, we elicited users’ ‘first impressions’ of various vaginal film formulation designs via visual and tactile prototype inspection during a qualitative user evaluation interview. Twenty-four women evaluated prototypes. Participants considered size and texture to be important for easy insertion. Color was more important following dissolution than prior to insertion. When asked to combine and balance all properties to arrive at an ideal film, previously stated priorities for individual characteristics sometimes shifted, with the salience of some individual characteristics lessening when multiple characteristics were weighted in combination. While first impressions alone may not drive product uptake, users’ willingness to initially try a product is likely impacted by such impressions. Developers should consider potential users’ experiences and preferences in vaginal film design. This user-focused approach is useful for characterizing user sensory perceptions and experiences relevant to early design of prevention technologies.