Human-Centered Design

How to combine beauty with prevention

Human-Centered Design (HCD) is a research-driven, design-focused approach to creating solutions that require change in human behavior or actions. Exploring messaging, packaging and product attributes of an HIV prevention product is one example of how HCD can be used to inform development of products that can fit into the lives of women and that women want to consistently use.

While existing literature from socio-behavioral studies discusses how lifestyles, hygiene practices, sexual risk taking, activities preceding intercourse, and potential for covert use may affect the uptake of microbicides, HCD studies focus not only on individual behavior and social, peer and community influences, but extend to understanding how product design, branding, packaging and messaging influence the user’s choices, confidence and long term engagement with the product.  Given the complicated factors that surround uptake of a product designed to prevent HIV, HCD may provide valuable and additional insights into end-user preferences.

Thanks to the funding and support of PEPFAR through USAID, CONRAD is collaborating with the global design firm IDEO and other partners to find HCD solutions to improve adherence to microbicides and ultimately, to implement these solutions in a way that will make a real impact in preventing new HIV infections.


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In 2014, CONRAD partnered with IDEO to bring an integrated and iterative research strategy to the microbicide field.  IDEO utilized the CAPRISA team as an in-country partner focusing on drug delivery systems (DDSs) (microbicide gels, IVRs, tablets and films), product messaging, and access/adherence strategies (digital and analogue reminders, websites, mobile applications). These initial pilot data identified several key drivers and potential barriers to microbicide uptake, correct use and long-term adherence, which needs further qualitative and quantitative testing among high-risk end users from an expanded geographic, socioeconomic and cultural scope.


IDEO discusses messages with women in South AfricaThanks to a grant from USAID, Project EMOTION will expand on Project KAROO, and work with in-country partners in Africa and collaborators IDEO, Abt Associates, RTI International and CAPRISA to identify individual, couple and community based drivers for and barriers to product use, and define and test product changes at the design, packaging, access and messaging levels in order to increase demand, use and adherence.

Participants will involve women who are at the highest risk of HIV infection, especially young unmarried women, including young adults who still live with their parents, those with a current or past history of intimate partner violence and those who exchange sex for money.  Project EMOTION will develop new product attributes, packaging, dispensing systems, messaging, dosing preferences, and branding for two lead HIV prevention products, as well as at least two new alternative drug delivery systems.


The Quatro Study – Acceptability Study of (Placebo) Vaginal Delivery Forms for Preventing HIV and Unintended Pregnancy Identifier: NCT02602366