Emergent HIV technology: urban Tanzanian women's narratives of medical research, microbicides and sexuality

Lees, Shelley Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care, 2014; Emergent HIV technology: urban Tanzanian women's narratives of medical research, microbicides and sexuality

A paper by STRIVE researcher and anthropologist Shelley Lees of the SaME group explores the narratives of Tanzanian women who participated in a microbicide clinical trial. Her analysis relates to broader questions of the political economy and social justice of globally funded medical research in resource-poor contexts.

In Tanzania in the 1990s, women's lives were full of uncertainty and insecurity, and their sexuality was linked to discourses of morality and power. In the context of the HIV epidemic, women participated in the trial to seek knowledge as well as to 'try' the gel as protection against HIV infection.

Biomedical technologies can produce inequalities but they also offer hope, as these narratives reveal. Medical research should always consider how technologies such as microbicides are taken up and understood by people particularly in relation to:

  • their own concerns
  • the broader imaginings of technologies and science
  • the political and economic context in which they live

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