When the HIV tattoo first emerged in the early 1980s, the prime representational mechanism of HIV ink concerned (1) the demarcation of viral bodies and (2) the presentation of care. In the age of effective anti-retroviral technologies (post-1996), the signification of the viral tattoo has compounded (3) the appearance of viral statehoods that do not transmit, (4) the transference of viral statehoods that seek to transmit, and (5) the memorialization of the viral past. Still more, the emergence of PrEP has unearthed produced (6) the cognizant and reliable representation of a body state bound up in the promise of future. In other words, the HIV tattoo has progressed from merely representational to anticipatory. The combination of the six aforementioned significations have built up a complex repertoire of viral selfhood(s) that inform the dissemination, interpretation(s), and qualifications of HIV positivity as a cross-subject, cross-serostatus subjectivity. In this conference paper, I set out to define the main thread that holds these many significations together: an ethics of viral care. I ask two critical questions: (A) What is the valence (positive/negative) of the HIV/AIDS tattoo? (B) In what ways do viral tattoos produce, engender and/or encourage an ethics of care? Focusing on issues of post-AIDS discourse (the founding of non/viral futures), I notate how the subject position of viral representation(s) has effectively bound the politics of life and death to a positive valence of viral subjectivity. In short, I argue that the viral tattoo produces a nuanced, systematic ethics of care that precipitates history at the same time it anticipates futurity. This research builds upon previous sociological research concerning the representational modes of affect, care, and viral wellness, especially acknowledging the work of Sara Ahmed, Michel Foucault, Douglas Crimp, Dan Brouwer and Dominic Johnson.
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