Acceptability of Carraguard vaginal gel use among Thai couples

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Objectives: To evaluate the acceptability of candidate microbicide Carraguard among couples participating in a safety trial. Study Design: A 6-month randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in sexually active, low-risk couples in Thailand. Methods: Couples who were monogamous, HIV uninfected, and not regular condom users were enrolled. Acceptability data were collected through structured questionnaires at repeated intervals. At the closing study visit, participants were asked questions about hypothetical product characteristics and future use. Compliance with gel use was assessed by questionnaires, coital diaries, and tracking of used and unused applicators. Results: Among 55 enrolled couples, follow up and adherence with gel use were high and sustained, with 80% of women using gel in over 95% of vaginal sex acts. Because acceptability results from Carraguard and placebo arms were similar, they were combined for this analysis. Overall, 92% of women and 83% of men liked the gel somewhat or very much; 66% of women and 72% of men reported increased sexual pleasure with gel use; and 55% of women and 62% of men reported increased frequency of intercourse. Only 15% of women but 43% of men thought that gel could be used without the man knowing. Although men and women had similar views overall, concordance within couples was low, with no kappa coefficients above 0.31. Conclusion: Carraguard gel use was acceptable to low-risk couples in northern Thailand. Reported associations between gel use and increased sexual pleasure and frequency suggest a potential to market microbicide products for both disease prevention and enhancement of pleasure.