- 'HIV has a woman's face': vaginal microbicides and a case of ambiguous failure
- Anthropology & Medicine
- Volume | Issue number
- 22 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
The case is a primary unit of knowledge production in the field of HIV research, yet the work that is done to construct cases often goes unremarked. In this paper, the case takes centre stage in an analysis of a set of apparent failures in HIV prevention research, namely a series of clinical trials to test vaginal microbicides. Returning to the genesis of the microbicide concept in the early 1990s, I examine how the discourse of women's empowerment was linked to HIV prevention in a way that mobilized a particular vision of the case, which was both politically and scientifically expedient. Drawing on an in-depth empirical study of one particular trial, I show the success of the case in mobilizing funds and interest in the research, as well its success in accounting for the failure of the pharmaceutical technology. Drawing in alternative scientific accounts of the failure of microbicides, however, a different version of events is indicated, in which what can ultimately be said to have failed is not the technology itself, but the act of casing upon which its testing was founded.
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