Theses Doctoral

HIV Biomedical Prevention Science and the Business of Gender and Sexual Diversity

Perez-Brumer, Amaya Gabriela

This dissertation examines the political economy of HIV biomedical prevention research—largely designed in the global North but conducted in the global South—and its implications for people of diverse genders and sexualities. As a recognized global leader in HIV biomedical prevention research among people categorized as men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women, Peru offers a key site in which to explore the increasing focus on gender and sexual identity as a strategic area for extractive research practices. This phenomenon has become particularly visible in the epidemic’s 4th decade, which has emphasized the pursuit of biomedical prevention strategies. Building on nine years of previous experience working inside HIV biomedical prevention studies, this project involved 24 months of ethnographic research, including participant observation; 110 interviews with scientists, study staff, and research subjects; 10 focus groups; and analyses of relevant scientific publications.

This study presents four key findings. First, US and Peruvian researchers’ historical and continued entanglement primed Peru to become a hotbed of HIV biomedical prevention research. In this context, population categories imported from the global North have served as powerful tools to sustain a booming local research market, which produces data that aligns with the global demands of the HIV industry. Second, on the ground, research begets more research rather than institutionalized HIV prevention technologies, creating a sustained enterprise in which issues of compensation, value, and labor shape the science. The commodification of gender and sexually diverse identities operates here in two ways: as a mechanism to access particular kinds of bodies and associated HIV risk data, and as a mechanism by which to claim expertise in the HIV prevention research industry for both researchers and community members. Third, Peruvians classified as MSM and transgender women are afforded only temporary access to cutting-edge strategies to prevent HIV, limited to study participation. The result is a sustained pool of people in need of HIV care primed to support the HIV biomedical research economy. Finally, this project illuminates a key paradox within the industry’s contemporary focus on gender and sexual diversity in HIV prevention science. This focus creates the impression that progressive health politics marked the field, while obscuring and absolving ongoing forms of exploitation and unequal gains embedded within it.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociomedical Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Parker, Richard G.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 1, 2019