Incorporating AIDS Activism into Erotic Bodies and Images of Gay Men: The Hidden History of Resilience of People Living with HIV (PLWH) in Sexual Minority Communities in Japan

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:50
Oral Presentation
Gaku OSHIMA, Hitotsubashi University, Japan
Previous research reveals that PLWH (people living with HIV) face tremendous challenges such as stigma based on one’s HIV status and/or sexuality and mental health issues. Although many studies have focused on vulnerability, few have highlighted resilience in such situations.

Based on the transcripts from the peer-to-peer life story interviews with twenty-one long-term HIV survivors, this report illuminates how PLWH have created hope against the homo-/AIDS- phobic era of the 1990s and 2000s. The research collaborators were recruited via an advertisement in the newsletters of the Japanese Network of PLWH (JaNP+).

As stated by two research collaborators, AIDS activism has been incorporated into the erotic bodies and images of gay men, especially in the culture of sexual adventurism. For example, In the gay magazine ‘G-MEN’, the editor-in-chief and HIV-positive activist, along with gay erotic artists, health experts, and bartenders in Tokyo’s gay district, produced and published various sexual stories and images that they believed were erotic in nature. Furthermore, they provided the latest information in regard to sexual health. As a result, the readers aspired to “fit in” with these stories and images, and many even shared their erotic desires with the magazine.

Through the ongoing construction of individual biography as a series of dialogues and joint action, the distinction between consuming sexual fantasy and practicing actual safer sex in everyday life has been constructed and directed towards a less stigmatized understanding of the actual lives of PLWH.

Overall, the findings in regard to the aforementioned processes are in direct contrast to the generally passive image of PLWH with the hegemonic medical context. This paper seeks to bring these experiences to the fore through focusing on the significance of visual materials in individual biography and overcoming social stigma, and highlighting the active resilience of PLWH.