In sub-Saharan Africa, far more women are infected with HIV than men, but there are no female-controlled HIV prevention methods other than the female condom and, more recently, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
The International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) has pioneered initiatives to provide women with affordable, self-initiated methods to protect against HIV, including the dapivirine vaginal ring (DVR).
The DVR is a monthly vaginal ring containing an antiretroviral drug, dapivirine, which helps prevent new HIV infections. IPM is submitting the DVR for regulatory approval. To ensure that the branding is culturally appropriate, acceptable and appealing, we employed to test potential names and then the packaging designs with end-users.
Genesis held focus-group discussions in high HIV burden countries for the naming (Malawi, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe) and packaging (South Africa and Uganda). Eight names and six packaging designs were tested. Names were tested among women and packages were tested with women and men. Genesis provided recommendations on names and packaging designs and discussed what might influence uptake and use.
We found that not all names were relevant or appropriate. Some were disliked because there were negative connotations or names were difficult to pronounce. One name was disliked across all countries because it meant death. Another was perceived to be cheap. Women said they were more likely to use the DVR if the name related to their language, circumstances and what the ring offered.
With packaging, groups in South Africa attached importance to the colour and size of the logo, and preferred bright and bold packaging. Participants in Uganda preferred less colourful, subtle, conservative packaging.
This work demonstrated the importance of testing branding for a medical product with users before its introduction. For health products to be successfully launched, providers needed to also understand consumer preferences because this could influence their use, as well as gain insight into the cultural norms, social context and language differences.