HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a global threat to public health that may be countered, in part, by microbicides. A successful microbicide must be both biologically efficacious and highly acceptable to users. Sensory attributes have a direct influence on product acceptability. We created a series of vaginal suppositories appropriate for use as microbicides to investigate the influence of shape on women's willingness-to-try. The influence of perceived size and firmness on acceptability was also assessed. Sexually-active women (n=99) were invited to participate in an evaluation of vaginal suppositories in 5 different shapes including: Bullet, Long Oval, Round Oval, Teardrop and Tampon. The volume (3. mL) and formulation for these five prototypes were identical. After manipulating prototypes ex vivo (in their hands), participants rated their willingness-to-try on a 100-point visual analog scale. The appropriateness of size and firmness were evaluated using 5-point just-about-right (JAR) scales. Each participant evaluated all five prototypes individually. Samples were presented in a counterbalanced monadic sequence using a Williams design. Mean willingness-to-try varied by shape, with Bullet and Long Oval receiving significantly higher scores. This was consistent with JAR data for size, as 70% and 65% of women indicated these shapes were 'just-about-right', respectively. In contrast, a minority of women endorsed the other 3 shapes as having a size that was 'just-about-right'. The proportion of women who felt the firmness was 'just-about-right' was uniformly high, irrespective of shape, suggesting prior attempts to optimize the formula were successful. Perceptions of size and firmness were influenced by the physical length and width of the prototypes, in spite of having constant volume. Women showed high willingness-to-try when asked to assume they were at risk. These results are relevant for behavioral and formulation scientists working on microbicides, to better understand the influence of sensory attributes on acceptability, as acceptability and compliance ultimately impact effectiveness.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes