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Lay people help to rethink AIDS

‘Credibility struggles in the AIDS arena have been multilateral: they have involved an unusually wide range of players. And the interventions of lay people in the proclamation and evaluation of scientific claims have helped shape what is believed to be known about AIDS – just as they have made problematic our understanding of who is a “layperson” and who is an “expert”.

At stake at every moment has been whether specific knowledge claims or spokespersons are credible. But at a deeper level, the stakes have involved the very mechanisms for the assessment of credibility: how are scientific claims adjudicated, and who gets to decide? [As this study shows,] debates within science are simultaneously debates about science and how it should be done – or who should be doing it.’

Epstein S. Impure science: AIDS, activism and the politics of knowledge. London: University of California Press, 1996.