Rumours about blood and reimbursements in a microbicide gel trial

Jonathan Stadler, Eirik Saethre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


A rumour that emerged during a microbicide gel trial tells the tale of clinic staff purchasing trial participants' blood. This paper documents the rumour and explores its divergent interpretations and meanings in relation to the context of the trial and the social and economic setting at two of the trial sites (Soweto and Orange Farm) in South Africa. The article is based on qualitative research conducted during the Microbicides Development Programme (MDP) 301 trial to evaluate a microbicide vaginal gel for HIV prevention in women. The research incorporated in-depth interviews with female trial participants and their male partners, focus group discussions with male and female community members, and participant observation in the trial clinic and community setting at the two sites. The article analyses the different perspectives among the clinic staff, community and trial participants in terms of which the rumour about the exchange of blood for cash is seen as: 1) the result of ignorance of the clinical trial procedures; 2) the exploitation of poor and vulnerable women; 3) an example of young women's desire for material gain; and 4) a reciprocal exchange of 'clean blood' for cash between women trial participants and the health services. We suggest that the rumours about selling blood verbalise notions of gender and morality while also providing an appraisal of the behaviour of young women and a critique of social relationships between foreign researchers and local participants. Through stories about the clinical trial procedures and its potential reimbursements, the participants were creating and reconfiguring social relationships. Ultimately, rumours are one way in which foreign enterprises such as a clinical trial are rendered local.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-353
Number of pages9
JournalAfrican Journal of AIDS Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood collection
  • Clinical trials
  • Hiv/aids
  • Mdp301
  • Qualitative research
  • Social anthropology
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'Rumours about blood and reimbursements in a microbicide gel trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this