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I feel like living in a world and talking so openly about queer sexuality and HIV/AIDS leads to a constant sense of alienation and disconnect. But what could happen if there was an easy, visual way to showcase that people living with HIV, who have experienced the loss of someone with AIDS, are on PrEP, or otherwise are confused about which sexual health services cater to LGBTQ-identified people? It seems like some of the silence, stigma and sense of disconnect could be lessened.

As I started to think about what Our Viral Lives could do, I again gravitated toward the idea of using digital tools. Having something that can be easily accessed around the world would allow more people to connect more easily, and thus the “Sex Without Boundaries” map was born. The idea is that if you’re poz, if you lost someone to AIDS, want to mention you’re on PrEP, or have a sexual health resource to share, you can.

This map will serve to build up more and more people over time to highlight the idea that we’re not alone, that there are people who share in our experiences, and that we can be empowered in our own communities to discuss sexuality and HIV if we haven’t already. Currently, anyone can reach out directly to Our Viral Lives at kyle [at] ourvirallives [dot] org to get added to the map. You can also send out a tweet here. All you need is your first name last initial, age, gender and/or sexual orientation, and HIV status, if you’re on PrEP, and since when.

(And if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out directly.)

The following plan is a tentative look at what my 2nd semester will look like for my Master’s program. This will help to shape the future of Our Viral Lives as a project.

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Packet 1 Deadline – September 7

social_innovationMajor objectives

  • Articulate social innovation as it relates to narrative and archives around HIV/AIDS
  • Complete final version of social innovation and sustainability essay

Resources

Packet 3 Deadline – October 19

AIDS_sign_in_Tanzania

Major Objectives

  • Host 1 event in NYC — ideally related to using photography as a documentary, narrative and archival tool in LGBTQ communities
  • Research more cross-cultural perspectives on HIV/AIDS to prepare for my upcoming travels to Mexico City and South Africa
  • Solidify contacts in all travel locations and find out more about archival materials and community organizations
  • Continue connecting with HIV/AIDS within NYC in a variety of contexts, to further refine social innovation and articulate possible future archival strategies

Resources

Packet 5 Deadline – November 30

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Main Objectives

  • Collect at least 7-10 written interviews (and find appropriate translation services when necessary)
  • Create an extended hybrid essay that combines autoethnography, archival research and more formal scholarship that focuses on at least 1 location that I traveled to
  • Create a tentative thesis statement to prepare in advance of G3 semester

Resources

There are so many urgent problems worth solving in this world that it becomes difficult to decide what your focus will be. Focus should not be assumed as such an absolute. Instead, it should be considered a method for approaching one particular social problem in a way that promotes better equity and innovates in some way. A problem like HIV/AIDS can never be “solved” and one “solution” will always be ineffective, but there is, at least, space for new targeted prevention and treatment programs to pop up, and better yet, there are ways in which we have failed whole populations for decades and are finally recognizing our errors.

When it comes to the HIV/AIDS crisis, nothing is too late because it’s a crisis that endures. It’s a crisis that, despite all of the dollars and knowledge and political will (depending on where you live), remains intractable. My background might not be in public policy nor have I worked directly with health organizations in an official capacity, but it’s not impossible to envision solutions given my background in HIV/AIDS history, contemporary art, and storytelling. My own story begins again and again. The narrative of my sexual history and consciousness has meandered many times, calling into question the crux of why HIV/AIDS remains omnipresent in queer communities: the interplay between identity and desire.

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Change, as we all well know, is not easy and it is not cheap. Our Viral Lives may have just started as an idea, but we’re ready to rapidly expand by the middle of 2015, if we can secure two important things: 1) fiscal sponsorship & 2) outside grant or sponsorship money. The first allows us to be affiliated with a 501(c)(3) organization, making us eligible for a lot more grants & for individual donors to create donations that could be written off on their taxes. The second would allow us to expand considerably. This budget and potential sponsorship avenues are highlighted at Our Viral Lives Budget Plan.

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