Public Engagement with Science – symposium today, Melbourne Room 2, 11am – 12.30pm #AIDS2014

There is a long pathway between demonstrating efficacy in clinical trials of new anti-HIV technologies and proving effectiveness in “real world” settings. That pathway is paved with combinations of technological, behavioral, social, political, and economic factors that ultimately play out in the actions of individuals to take up (or resist taking up) HIV prevention and treatment methods and incorporate them into their daily lives. To a great extent, whether and how this occurs is a reflection of public engagement in HIV/AIDS science—from basic perceptions and attitudes about biomedical research; meanings people give to products, technologies, their bodies, and their relationships; participation in and knowledge of the outcomes of research; and communication about scientific processes and outcomes. 

This session will examine how public engagement in science has evolved in the realm of HIV, including issues of inclusion, exclusion, exploitation and benefit, and what constitutes sound scientific research and actionable evidence.

Co-chairs: Judith Auerbach, Veronica Noseda

Speakers: Patricia Kingori, Pedro Goicochea, Kathleen MacQueen, Kane Race

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Party ‘n’ Play

Here is my poster on PNP practices for AIDS 2014.  Fabulous design by Leading Hand design.  You can find a full copy of the draft paper, forthcoming in Sexualities, here.

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Filed under Devices and technology, Erogenous zones, Eroticism and fantasy, Parties, PNP culture, Self-medication, Sexual practice

The Difference Practice Makes: Evidence, articulation and affect in HIV prevention

This paper considers the difference that a conception of sex as social practice has made to the relations articulated in HIV social research in Australia.  In defining sexual practice as “fluid, embedded in specific social formations, and involving the negotiation of meaning” (Kippax & Stephenson, 2005), social researchers put their own research categories and questions at risk by constructing situations in which their objects of research were given occasions to differ.  Taking this risk produced sharp insights about the evolving dynamics of the sexual and prevention fields and produced distinctive, interesting findings.  It enabled the articulation of the practice of “negotiated safety” and later strategies of HIV risk reduction emerging from gay men’s practice, for example.  I draw on Latour’s (2004) concept of articulation to make sense of these innovations and query some of the key distinctions that organise the field of HIV research:  qualitative/quantitative; social/biomedical; subject/object; human/nonhuman; interpretations/evidence.  In the present context, I argue that keeping HIV prevention effective, engaging and interesting will require ongoing attention to the embodied articulation of HIV relations.

[This post is the abstract of a paper of mine just submitted to AIDS Education & Prevention.  Should be of interest to HIV prevention geeks and potential prevention geeks mainly ; )]

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Filed under Affect, Antiretrovirals, Engagement with medicine, HIV behavioural surveillance, Policy and programs, Sexual practice, The statistical imagination

Provocative Objects

Things are moving fast in the world of HIV prevention and sexual practice, with the introduction of new techniques such as Treatment as Prevention and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (billed as ‘a pill a day to prevent HIV infection’) being purposed for prevention purposes.  While the latter is not yet available in Australia, it has been the subject of a whole lot of controversy as well as some very provocative and creative cultural production in North America, including the My Life on PREP series by blogger Jake Sobo, who gives a fascinating account of how his perceptions, experiences, practices and theorisations of risk change as he starts using the drug for HIV prevention.  He really accounts for himself as a sexual subject “in process” and the result is both fascinating and informative.


If that wasn’t creative enough, check out this recent  Youtube clip, “The Key” adapted from one of Jake Sobo’s blogs, that positions PREP as an intervention into the forms of shame, sexual judgement and aversion to stigmatic identification that circulate in gay male domains like the online world and which could be seen to hamper effective HIV prevention.  Most of us know the territory, but as far as confronting these things, it’s been a while since I’ve seen an intervention this bold.  There’s much to admire about this clip – the funky  beats, the uncompromising confrontation of online dynamics and interaction, and the sharp analysis of how investment in normative ideals of intimacy can precipitate forms of self-deception around risk and sexual practice.

What I am less sure about is the invocation of PREP as THE key  – as though an exclusive – way of solving this problem of sexual stigma, shaming and aversion. I have huge admiration for this intervention, and I  have also been very interested in the provocative powers of PREP,  but I’m  keen to hear people’s responses to this clip.  How well does it handle your concerns about PREP?  What does and doesn’t it deal with?  What else might one need to know to consider engaging with this preventive strategy?  What issues or concerns does PREP raise for you?

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Filed under Affect, Antiretrovirals, Devices and technology, Engagement with medicine, Erogenous zones, HIV behavioural surveillance, Medicine and science, Self-medication, Sexual practice, The statistical imagination

When sex delivery systems don’t deliver

I’ve been thinking a lot in this project about the possibilities but also frustrations afforded by online cruising sites/ apps and how they are figuring in the ways gay men are presently organising their sexual and emotional lives. They can function as a great and effective way of hooking up with people (often not as effective as people would like!) but there is an abiding anger, sense of resentment and frustration about what they make us do, and what they don’t do, and how people behave when using this medium. All this even while many people understand the desire for casual or no-strings sex, and use these sites happily for these purposes themselves …  often in the ways they complain about in relation to the conduct of prospective partners!

I managed to dig up this old interview from an event back in 2010 hosted by SIDACTION in Paris where David Halperin, Barry Adam and a much earlier version of myself were interviewed in connection with a conference on homosexuality, social science and HIV.  Barry’s comments at the end of the interview have stuck with me ever since and I have been thinking about them more and more.  He raises the problem of how participants try to negotiate needs for connection and intimacy so evocatively:

“We often live in gay worlds which are quite efficient sex delivery systems but men then have to focus a great many of their emotional needs into this one avenue and that itself creates new risk situations which are again often inadvertent but that we are called upon to manage one way or another”

I love this way of formulating the problem: how to negotiate satisfying intimate lives in the context of hyper-efficient sex delivery systems?  It’s an ongoing and active question …

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Filed under Affect, Devices and technology, Online meeting sites, PNP culture, Sexual practice

Inspired mixtape by Seymour Butz

No more pussy footing around

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Party and Play: new infrastructures of sexual sociability

Here’s what I’m thinking: in the form of an abstract submitted to an upcoming drugs conference.  Comments and ideas v welcome!

This paper traces the complex and shifting materialization of gay lives in the context of transformations in drug practices, drug policing and modes of sexual sociability over the past decade in Sydney, Australia.  I argue that the government of drug practices is bound up in complex ways with the materialization of sexualities, forms of community and identification, and modes of political consciousness and activism. I connect two processes that have had a marked effect on sexual sociability among men who have sex with men and queer communities in urban contexts: (1) the intensification of drug policing which is increasingly experienced as – and has been used as a pretext to conduct – a systematic assault on gay communal spaces and the ethos of dance culture, and (2) the emergence of online sex sites, which has made possible new, more secluded, and arguably more risky forms of at-home partying and drug consumption (‘PNP culture’).  Drawing on insights from science studies, I approach these developments as new sexual infrastructures, or infrastructures of intimacy, that can be seen to mediate sociosexual encounters in specific ways.  Where institutions allocate resources and establish hierarchies of authority, infrastructures facilitate and shape encounters in ways that become more or less durable even as their constructed and/or enacted nature is grasped.  What this analysis brings to science studies is an illustration of the implication of sociotechnical infrastructures and regulatory practices in the production of affective atmospheres – their ontological manifestation, effects and transformation.  In conclusion, I consider the significance of affective climates for harm reduction and what I have termed ‘counterpublic health’.  I argue that the concept of ‘affective climates’ provides a more nuanced perspective on the ways in which stigma may be understood to interfere with collective elaborations of care.


Filed under Affect, Devices and technology, Drug dogs, Engagement with medicine, Medicine and science, Online meeting sites, Parties, PNP culture, Police, Self-medication, Sexual practice, Theory