Vaginal probiotic adherence and acceptability in Rwandan women with high sexual risk participating in a pilot randomised controlled trial: a mixed-methods approach

Marijn C Verwijs, Stephen Agaba, Marie Michele Umulisa, Mireille Uwineza, Adrien Nivoliez, Elke Lievens, Janneke H H M van de Wijgert

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OBJECTIVES: To evaluate adherence and acceptability of intermittent vaginal probiotic or antibiotic use to prevent bacterial vaginosis (BV) recurrence.

DESIGN: Repeated adherence and acceptability assessments using mixed methods within a pilot randomised controlled trial.

SETTING: Research clinic in Kigali, Rwanda.

PARTICIPANTS: Rwandan women with high sexual risk.

INTERVENTIONS: Women diagnosed with BV and/or trichomoniasis were randomised to four groups (n=17 each) after completing metronidazole treatment: behavioural counselling only, or behavioural counselling plus 2-month intermittent use of oral metronidazole, Ecologic Femi+ (EF+) vaginal capsule or Gynophilus LP (GynLP) vaginal tablet.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Adherence and acceptability were assessed by structured face-to-face interviews, semi-structured focus group discussions and in-depth interviews, daily diaries and counting of used/unused study products in randomised women (n=68). Vaginal infection knowledge was assessed by structured face-to-face interviews in randomised women and women attending recruitment sessions (n=131).

RESULTS: Most women (93%) were sex workers, 99.2% were unfamiliar with BV and none had ever used probiotics. All probiotic users (n=32) reported that insertion became easier over time. Triangulated adherence data showed that 17/17 EF+ users and 13/16 GynLP users used ≥80% of required doses (Fisher's exact p=0.103). Younger age (p=0.076), asking many questions at enrolment (p=0.116), having menses (p=0.104) and reporting urogenital symptoms (p=0.103) were non-significantly associated with lower perfect adherence. Women believed that the probiotics reduced BV recurrence, but reported that partners were sometimes unsupportive of study participation. Self-reported vaginal washing practices decreased during follow-up, but sexual risk behaviours did not. Most women (12/15) with an uncircumcised steady partner discussed penile hygiene with him, but many women found this difficult, especially with male clients.

CONCLUSIONS: High-risk women require education about vaginal infections. Vaginal probiotic acceptability and adherence were high in this cohort. Our results can be used to inform future product development and to fine-tune counselling messages in prevention programmes.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere031819
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2020


  • Africa
  • acceptability
  • adherence
  • bacterial vaginosis
  • vaginal probiotic


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