iSchool Research Symposium: Kane Race
Talk title: U = who? The hinterlands of HIV biomedical prevention
Abstract: In 2016 the USA-based Prevention Access Campaign was founded to launch the Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) campaign. Informed by the findings of a number of high profile clinical trials, the campaign sought to build international consensus around the proposition that having an undetectable viral load means HIV is not sexually transmissible and to disseminate this message through a global network of partners. Today U=U describes itself as a ‘global health and human rights movement’ with over 1000 official partners in 105 countries. U=U is framed as a ‘life-changing, stigma-busting and transmission-stopping fact’ that is deployed around the world to advocate for policies that reduce barriers to treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS and promote education around the scientific, sexual and prevention implications of Treatment as Prevention. In this paper, I situate U=U not merely as a statement of medical fact, nor simply a goal of clinical relevance for people living with HIV and their sexual partners, but as a lure that is deployed strategically to bring about legal, social, policy, healthcare and welfare changes. As a push to transform the governmentality of HIV, it has changed the problem of HIV prevention so that it no longer takes sexual practice as its target of transformation but prioritizes questions of treatment access, engagement with care and pharmaceutical compliance. U=U aims to de-sexualise the problem of HIV transmission, turning it into a matter of engagement with biomedicine, clinical monitoring and pharmaceutical regimen. In this paper I weigh the costs of this de-sexualisation of HIV political identity and advocacy and trace the arrangements that must be in place for U=U to emerge as a compelling value proposition and basis of identity.
Speaker Bio: Kane Race is Professor of Gender & Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He has published widely on the impact of medical and digital technologies on gay sexual cultures and practices, as well as controversies such as chemsex (sexualised drug use) and the politics of drugs. Among his books are The Gay Science: intimate experiments with HIV (Routledge, 2018) and Pleasure Consuming Medicine: the queer politics of drugs (Duke UP, 2009)