Living in the Context of AIDS/HIV

I no longer think of AIDS as a solvent but perhaps rather as a kind of intensifier, something which makes things more firmly, deeply themselves.

-Mark Doty, Heaven’s Coast

Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead.

-Tony Kushner, Angels in America

People I Work With

  • Long-term survivors of the AIDS epidemic, both HIV+ and HIV-
  • Newly diagnosed adults and young adults
  • Serodifferent couples
  • Partners and family members (biological and chosen family) impacted by HIV
  • Adult and young adult children of positive parents
  • Women living with HIV
  • Transmen, transwomen, and genderqueer people navigating HIV risk, infection, and stigma

Issues, Experiences, and Questions We Might Address

  • Managing internal shame and external stigma
  • Grief and trauma of loss and multiple losses
  • Community building and dating
  • Sex positivity and sexual concerns
  • Cultivating an empowered sex life
  • The psychological and embodied experience of navigating PEP, PrEP and long-term medicalization or contemplation of medication
  • Serodifferent couples making decisions about safer sex practices and risk reduction
  • Resistance to HIV criminalization
  • Deciding when to disclose serostatus, how, and to whom
  • Managing anxiety about HIV testing
  • AIDS caregiver fatigue

Life Cycle Questions and Concerns

  • HIV+ individuals, and HIV+ and serodifferent couples who are exploring fertility and family building
  • Building support systems among families of origin and chosen families
  • Nurturing and sustaining familial, kinship, and community relationships
  • Questions about quality of life, dying with dignity, and end-of-life decisions
  • Aging with HIV
  • Envisioning a future for self and community

The Present Tense

Recent developments in treatment options have led to changes in life span and new possibilities of health, longevity, and futurity for people who are HIV+ or who are in relationships (familial, romantic, and/or sexual) with people who are seropositive.

The nuances of viral load detectability, drug treatment options, and drug prevention options, have given HIV+ individuals and serodifferent couples of all genders new options for exploring what safer sex and risk reduction means to them. This has also allowed for questions about fertility, reproductive health, and parenting that had once been discouraged for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Integrating Histories/Post-Traumatic Plague Syndrome

How do we integrate 30 years of managing life in the context of a plague? Rapid treatment changes have led to cultural changes and shifts in the meanings (both enacted and symbolic), of safer sex, risk, and sexual and community identities.

What does it mean to have outlived a community of friends and lovers and to now live in the context of a community where the bodily experiences of living with HIV are not as visible or tended to as they once were? How does the struggle against erasure manifest in relationships, agency over health care choices, and arts and other meaning making and expressive practices?