archival research

Yes, there has been something of a radio silence for a while on Our Viral Lives. But do not despair. Behind the scenes, I’ve been thinking deeply about the book project that will be finished (as a draft) next August, and some of the new components of the archive that will be launched once my M.A. semester finished up in a few weeks. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the principles that underpin this archive. I don’t want to call what I’m publishing here a manifesto (because a manifesto almost by its nature implies fixed principles) but there are ideals that guide my work as an archivist, curator, and individual living in the moment of this HIV/AIDS crisis.

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I arrive in South Africa this upcoming Saturday, November 14th after nearly 8 months of anticipation. South Africa will be the furthest I’ve ever traveled from the United States, and the longest time I’ve traveled to one country outside of the U.S. The first two and a half weeks will be spent in Johannesburg and the final two and a half weeks will be spent in Cape Town.

I wanted to detail more specifically what I want to accomplish, outside of the call for written interviews.

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HIV has impacted my day-to-day life since I devoted my life to basic research about the virus. At the moment I am a PhD student in the National University of Mexico (UNAM), close to fulfilling the requisites for graduation, I do my research in the centre of research in infectious diseases (CIENI). It is a laboratory that belongs to the Ministry of Health.

HIV cure is the career focus of many scientists around the globe. It is essential to join minds and efforts in order to find strategies that could lead us to this elusive goal. Being a gay man growing in a third world country where stigmatization strongly affects the perception of HIV disease, I started my scientific career with the aim of contributing with knowledge that could someday lead to HIV cure. It is a motivation for me knowing that I can contribute to this goal, when I have been around young men that leave themselves to die of AIDS in my country because of stigmatization, ignorance and fear.

My research at the moment is contributing with knowledge on a model where two selective pressures (antiretroviral therapy and the immune response) could converge to limit HIV variation and replication. I have been able to find widely spread responses to HIV peptides that include drug resistance mutations, that could be included in therapeutic vaccines used in cure strategies such as the “kick and kill” approach to HIV control or the pharmacologic-immune control of HIV replication. I’ve already submitted the paper regarding this research. If accepted, it will mean a successful contribution to the field.

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Introduction To Social Innovation Methodology

When I started in the SIS program, the concept of “social innovation” in relation to Our Viral Lives felt like an unnecessary abstraction. I remember at one point even considering switching out of the SIS concentration because I felt my work didn’t “fit in” to the mold of a social innovation project. But the more I started to concretely plan out Fall 20015—both in regards to launching new programming and also solidifying travel plans in South Africa— I realized how clearly I was doing something that was in fact innovative and was focused on making a social, political and historical impact on discourse around HIV/AIDS for LGBTQ-identified people.

To make sense of the potential social impact and innovation of Our Viral Lives, it’s necessary to consider three different elements of the project: content, design, and method. They are all interrelated but they serve to highlight unique components of social innovation discourse.

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I’ve known since the beginning of the year that I would be going to Mexico City and South Africa but I haven’t know what I’m doing. Finally, I’m excited to announce a more concrete plan of what I’ll be doing and offer a little insight into the process. All of this has been a while in the making, but I’m happy to finally be going somewhere and setting myself up for a lot of exciting things to come.

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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