Negotiating pharmaceutical uncertainty: women’s agency in a South African HIV prevention trial

Eirik Saethre, Jonathan Stadler Vanderbilt University Press, 2017; ISBN10: 0826521398

Telling the story of a clinical trial testing an innovative gel designed to prevent women from contracting HIV, Negotiating Pharmaceutical Uncertainty provides new insight into the complex and contradictory relationship between medical researchers and their subjects.

Although clinical trials attempt to control and monitor participants' bodies, Saethre and Stadler argue that the inherent uncertainty of medical testing can create unanticipated opportunities for women to exercise control over their health, sexuality, and social relationships. Combining a critical analysis of the social production of biomedical knowledge and technologies with a detailed ethnography of the lives of female South African trial participants, this book brings to light issues of economic exclusion, racial disparity, and spiritual insecurity in Johannesburg's townships. Built on a series of tales ranging from strategy sessions at the National Institutes of Health to witchcraft accusations against the trial, Negotiating Pharmaceutical Uncertainty illuminates the everyday social lives of clinical trials.

As embedded anthropologists, Saethre and Stadler provide a unique and nuanced perspective of the reality of a clinical trial that is often hidden from view.

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