Undetectable_Kia LaBeija
Kia LaBeija #undetectable, 2016.
Photo: courtesy of PosterVirus

PosterVirus: Views from the Street

Adam Barbu
The story of HIV/AIDS has been, and continues to be, deeply rooted in the issue of cultural signification. Critical considerations of this complex, oftentimes slippery subject cannot be restricted to research on the medical realities of contracting and living with HIV. Our focus must extend to the visual and verbal codes that have spread throughout popular culture and influenced how we think about the virus itself. At the onset of the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s, public anxieties about the risk of infection were reinforced by certain signifying practices that framed queer bodies as perverse objects of repulsion.1 1 - Simon Watney, “In Purgatory: The Work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres,” in Felix Gonzalez-Torres, ed. Julie Ault (New York City and Gottingen: Steidldangin, 2006), 336.

In turn, the signifier “AIDS” evolved as a force of stigmatization and political violence, which, as Susan Sontag argues, brought on a crisis of representation and “the struggle for rhetorical ownership of the illness.”2 2 - Susan Sontag, “AIDS and Its Metaphors,” in Illness as Metaphor: AIDS and Its Metaphors (New York: Picador, 1990), 181. According to Sontag, in order to radically alter our society’s relationship with HIV/AIDS, these knowledge structures had to be “exposed, criticized, belaboured, used up.”3 3 - Ibid., 182

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This article also appears in the issue 91 - LGBT+

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