Gelling medical knowledge: Innovative pharmaceuticals, experience, and perceptions of efficacy

Eirik J. Saethre, Jonathan Stadler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


As new pharmaceutical products to combat the acquisition of HIV are produced, their clinical efficacy is determined through large-scale clinical trials. Trial participants, however, also independently evaluate the effectiveness of these technologies. During a phase III microbicide clinical trial in Johannesburg, South Africa, female participants acknowledged that although the gel had not yet been clinically proven to be efficacious, they believed that it was capable of healing infections, cleansing the vagina, increasing fertility, and preventing HIV. These responses were informed by experiences of gel use coupled with ideas regarding the flow of bodily fluids and the removal of dirt for bodily cleanliness and the maintenance of health. Examining participant responses to the gel provides insight into the relationship between knowledge and experience when utilizing previously unfamiliar biotechnologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-111
Number of pages13
JournalAnthropology and Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical trials
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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