Understanding the acceptability of subdermal implants as a possible new HIV prevention method: Multi-stage mixed methods study

Christine Tagliaferri Rael*, Cody Lentz, Alex Carballo-Diéguez, Rebecca Giguere, Curtis Dolezal, Daniel Feller, Richard T. D'Aquila, Thomas J. Hope

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: A long-acting implant for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is in development in the Sustained Long-Action Prevention Against HIV (SLAP-HIV) trial. This could provide an alternative to oral PrEP. Objective: Our mixed methods study aimed to understand (1) users' experiences with a similar subdermal implant for contraception and (2) factors influencing the likelihood that gay and bisexual men (GBM) would use a proposed PrEP implant. Methods: Work was completed in 4 stages. In stage 1, we conducted a scientific literature review on existing subdermal implants, focusing on users' experiences with implant devices. In stage 2, we reviewed videos on YouTube, focusing on the experiences of current or former contraceptive implant users (as these implants are similar to those in development in SLAP-HIV). In stage 3, individuals who indicated use of a subdermal implant for contraception in the last 5 years were recruited via a web-based questionnaire. Eligible participants (n=12 individuals who liked implants a lot and n=12 individuals who disliked implants a lot) completed in-depth phone interviews (IDIs) about their experiences. In stage 4, results from IDIs were used to develop a web-based survey for HIV-negative GBM to rate their likelihood of using a PrEP implant on a scale (1=very unlikely and 5=very likely) based on likely device characteristics and implant concerns identified in the IDIs. Results: In the scientific literature review (stage 1), concerns about contraceptive implants that could apply to the PrEP implants in development included potential side effects (eg, headache), anticipated high cost of the device, misconceptions about PrEP implants (eg, specific contraindications), and difficulty accessing PrEP implants. In the stage 2 YouTube review, individuals who had used contraceptive implants reported mild side effects related to their device. In stage 3, implant users reported that devices were comfortable, unintrusive, and presented only minor discomfort (eg, bruising) before or after insertion and removal. They mainly reported removing or disliking the device due to contraceptive-related side effects (eg, prolonged menstruation). Participants in the stage 4 quantitative survey (N=304) were mainly gay (204/238, 85.7%), white (125/238, 52.5%), cisgender men (231/238, 97.1%), and 42.0% (73/174) of them were on oral PrEP. Not having to take a daily pill increased the likelihood of using PrEP implants (mean 4.13). Requiring >1 device to achieve 1 year of protection (mean range 1.79-2.94) mildly discouraged PrEP implant use. Participants did not mind moderate bruising, a small scar, tenderness, or bleeding after insertion or removal, and an implant with a size slightly larger than a matchstick (mean ratings 3.18-3.69). Conclusions: PrEP implants are promising among GBM. Implant features and insertion or removal-related concerns do not seem to discourage potential users. To ensure acceptability, PrEP implants should require the fewest possible implants for the greatest protection duration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere16904
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Acceptability
  • Bisexual men
  • Gay
  • HIV prevention
  • Human-centered design
  • Long-acting HIV prevention
  • Long-acting PrEP
  • PrEP implant
  • Removable implant
  • Systemic PrEP
  • YouTube

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding the acceptability of subdermal implants as a possible new HIV prevention method: Multi-stage mixed methods study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this