HIV Risk Management in Gay Men’s Virtual and Non Virtual Social-Sexual Networks in the Era of PrEP

Friday, 20 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Jaime RANGEL, University of Toronto, Canada, The Wilson Centre - UHN, Canada
Rory CRATH, Smith College - Faculty of Social Work, USA
Adam GAUBINGER, Smith College - Faculty of Social Work, USA
Rational: The combination of new HIV prevention biomedical tools, like Treatment as Prevention (TasP) and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP/Truvada), and new digital technologies for facilitating dating and sexual hookups for gay men and men who have sex with men (herein GM) afford new possibilities for GM to be responsible sexual-health actors. These sites invite GM to reveal their HIV Risk management practices by stating their HIV status, testing practices, and adherence to medication regimes (TasP/PrEP/Truvada). Hook-up apps’ user interfaces are also designed to incite GM’s desire for intimacy and pleasure, while shaping user’s ability to trade in their erotic capital. Despite expanding possibilities for intimacy and health risk management, social-sexual communities created in digital media platforms are not immune to the intrusion of intersecting forms of systemic oppression. Our research maps cultural and social forces (including biomedicine) at play mediating GM’s practices and experiences of HIV risk, well-being and health navigated across virtual and non-virtual social/sexual worlds. Utilizing an innovative combination of qualitative techniques including digital ethnographies and body mapping, our analysis destabilizes the rational actor model of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Contributions: Our analysis suggests that despite individual decision-making preferences for risk management, the possibilities and expectations of new biomedical and digital technologies are not equal for all. Intersecting forms of systemic oppression in conjunction with cultural forces (including those produced by pornographic industries and biomedicine), impact the ways in which GM, and racialized GM, in particular, are able to enact their health and sexual agency. Innovative qualitative approaches enable us to see subjects’ risk management, and sexual decision making as embedded in the embodied and social logics of multiple temporalities produced at the nexus of digital and biomedical technologies.