Young Women Lead, Evidence, Advocate, Research, Network (LEARN): What Does PrEP Mean for Young Women?

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Stevenson J., Mworeko L. and Mwaniki R.

Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) are disproportionately affected by HIV, and can face barriers to access, uptake and use of HIV prevention methods. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a new, effective, individually-controlled HIV prevention tool that could benefit some AGYW. This study used qualitative, participatory, peer-led methods to explore the knowledge, views and preferences of AGYW about PrEP, HIV prevention, and sexual and reproductive health and rights more broadly.

In three districts in Uganda and two counties in Kenya, trained young women peer researchers led 10 Community Dialogues with AGYW in their communities. The Community Dialogues each included
around 25 AGYW as participants, who shared their views and preferences about PrEP. The dialogues were held in 2018, with the project closing at the end of September 2018. Findings from the study will help to inform effective PrEP implementation and rollout. The research was conducted as part of a two-year project, Young Women LEARN, funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, managed by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. Participants identified challenges for PrEP use including problems taking pills, worries about side effects and inaccessibility of clinics and services. Opportunities of PrEP for AGYW included control over HIV prevention and improvements to relationships.

AGYW had limited knowledge about PrEP and in some cases confused it with PEP. Information, outreach and sensitization for and by AGYW is needed. Peer-led support and mobilization, continued PrEP and HIV prevention innovation, agency and rights for AGYW, economic empowerment and comprehensive and accurate information were identified by AGYW as a blueprint to make PrEP work for them.