Country decision-making regarding adoption of new health technologies is a lengthy process that is informed by scientific, public health, and policy analyses. Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), who include a range of influential individuals (e.g., Ministry of Health officials, leaders of medical and pharmacy associations, civil society representatives, donors), play a critical role in country decision-making around adoption and availability of new HIV-prevention tools. Their perspectives can shape public opinion and influence policy, programming, and procurement decisions.
In-depth face-to-face interviews with a dozen purposefully selected national KOLs in India were conducted to gain their perspectives around ARV-based prevention for women, focusing on microbicides in general and tenofovir vaginal gel specifically. Theme-based content emerged and was analyzed using ATLAS.ti software.
While generally supportive, KOLs expressed caveats regarding the role tenofovir gel might play in the overall HIV-prevention program. Key outstanding issues that would need to be addressed include product effectiveness, potential for resistance, product cost, feasibility of HIV testing and re-testing, and effective targeting of key populations for public health impact.
As new HIV-prevention technologies advance through clinical trials, there is a concomitant necessity to engage in policy analysis exercises. Formative research with stakeholders early in the process is an important yet often overlooked step. The potential role that the tenofovir gel could play in India will depend in large part on epidemiological, public health, and economic factors. Understanding target populations' perspectives on the product will also be critical for its successful introduction.