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Designing drug shops for young women in Tanzania: applying human-centred design to facilitate access to HIV self-testing and contraception


Adolescent and young adult women in sub-Saharan Africa experience barriers to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services that elevate their risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquisition and unintended pregnancy. Community drug shops may be effective distribution points to connect young women with SRH products. Thus, we used human-centred design (HCD) to create drug shops where young women could access HIV self-testing and contraception in Shinyanga, Tanzania. Enhancing the HCD process with behavioural science, we collected diverse data (i.e. 18 in-depth interviews, 9 'shadowing' interviews, 6 shop observations, 6 focus groups) to understand the latent needs and motivations of young women and drug shopkeepers, brainstormed creative solutions and iteratively refined and tested solutions for acceptability, feasibility and cultural fit. We found a widespread moral imperative to control young women's behaviour via misinformation about SRH, community gossip and financial control. Young women often engaged in mundane shopping at the behest of others. At drug shops, few SRH products were deemed appropriate for unmarried women, and many reactively sought SRH products only after engaging in higher risk behaviours. In response to these insights, we designed the 'Malkia Klabu' ('Queen Club') loyalty programme through which young women could earn mystery prizes by shopping at drug shops and discreetly request free SRH products, including HIV self-test kits, by pointing at symbols on loyalty cards. Our HCD approach increases the likelihood that the intervention will address the specific needs and preferences of both drug shopkeepers and young women. We will evaluate its effectiveness in a randomized trial.

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