Luc Montagnier studied viruses, the immune system, and cancer in France during the second half of the twentieth century. In his early career, Montagnier studied how cancer-causing viruses replicate and infect host cells. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008 for his team’s discovery that a retrovirus, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, was the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. AIDS is a chronic condition that results from HIV infection and damages the immune system. People who have AIDS typically experience increased vulnerability to a variety of diseases. Before Montagnier’s research on the virus, the exact cause of AIDS remained unknown to researchers and healthcare professionals. Beyond discovering HIV as the cause of AIDS, Montagnier’s work advanced a general understanding of how viral infection affects the immune system of the host organism.

On 1 October 1995, Steven Epstein published “The Construction of Lay Expertise: AIDS Activism and the Forging of Credibility in the Reform of Clinical Trials,” hereafter “Lay Expertise,” in the journal Science, Technology, & Human Values. In the article, Epstein shows how particular activists in the 1980s helped reform government-run clinical trials for people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Those activists did that work at a time when AIDS was widespread among communities of gay men, and there were no treatments available to combat the disease. Epstein documents how AIDS activists gained credibility in the eyes of the scientific establishment through specific tactics of engagement. “Lay Expertise” laid a foundation for understanding how AIDS movement activism transformed the field of biomedicine, and paved the way for additional research on illness-related social movements, such as those related to infertility and embryonic stem cell research.