featured gallery for July 2022

Speculative Non-Fiction

Joe De Hoyos’ contemplation of the world’s response to an HIV cure is one of jubilation and collective relief. His hypothesis made me pause and think hard on what the world would be like or rather could be like in such an event. Inciting my natural disposition to skepticism, this thinking exercise sent me down a rabbit hole of what ifs. I encourage whoever’s reading this to go down this rabbit hole with me and think of not just the day a cure is announced, but the possibility of a “post-HIV” world. Starting with De Hoyos’ collage, I chose images that illustrated my imaginings.

Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if HIV becomes curable. Would it come in a single pill form, an injection, a liquid? Is it taken all at once in one day or over several weeks? Does it only work depending on the stage of infection? Would any of the people living with HIV scramble to receive it or would it be met with suspicion? Which pharmaceutical company is behind it and what’s the catch? Would it strengthen belief in God or in humans?

What would news of a cure bring? Would it only mean something for those with the virus? Would seronegative people be unmoved, thinking this has nothing to do with them anyway? Or would they say a cure would only encourage riskier behavior? Will they say it’s a shame that people can get away with the sin of sex without any consequences? How will politicians strategize around this issue?

Will a cure eliminate the need for safer sex? Will we have another sexual revolution? Will it simply let our guards down again, opening ourselves up to another yet-to-be discovered virus? Will the cure become outdated or in danger of eventual ineffectiveness as is predicted for the cures to syphilis and gonorrhea?

What would it be like to be born into a world where HIV is a disease of our ancestors’ past? Probably how it is like to be born into a world where syphilis has been known for at least 600 years and, despite having its own cure, continues to flourish. Not unlike tuberculosis which found its cure and still remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases. What then exactly would a cure be the answer to?

What would an HIV cure mean for all the people who gave their lives over to the fight against AIDS? Death no longer a motivator to live, and illness no longer a shaper of identity. What will it mean for people’s work—their art, their relationships, their sense of self—when they no longer have to concern themselves with medication, with worrying about disclosure, with protesting for a cure or searching for social spaces that center life with HIV? Will there be some mourning of the chunk of life given over to this cause? Will it be a matter of good riddance?

If a cure is announced, who will benefit first? In what order would it trickle down amongst the population? Would the criteria for a cure simply be seropositivity or income? Will it be available in some countries before others? Whose body will this cure be made to work for? Will women’s bodies continue to be of low priority?

What will come first: an HIV vaccine or a cure? What are the implications of each? What conspiracies will manifest to sow doubt in people’s minds? What kind of historical revisions will spring up in the decades that follow?

What will it feel like to no longer live in fear or guilt? To get on with life, to say “last month I had a bad case of HIV, but I went to the doctor to get it cleared up”. What an odd statement. And yet! It could very well be just that simple.

Is the secret hope for a post-HIV world just a desire to return to a pre-HIV world? One thing this COVID pandemic has taught society is that there is no going back to normal.

So what would the world look like once there’s a cure for HIV?