HIV science as artwork

It’s complicated to miss Taiwanese artist Kairon Liu’s contribution to the HIV Science as Artwork exhibition at Brisbane’s Metro Arts.

Positioned opposite the entrance, Untransmittable is a photograph of a massive clear phallus filled, in lolly-dispenser trend, with a rainbow assortment of products, all over which is lovingly draped the arm of an unidentifiable guy.

The title of the work refers to a single 50 percent of the equation U=U.

Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) lies at the heart of the new HIV avoidance narrative.

U=U implies that people dwelling with HIV who just take antiretroviral remedy every day as prescribed and who accomplish and retain an undetectable viral load are not able to sexually transmit the virus to a HIV-adverse partner, according to the Nationwide Affiliation of People today Dwelling with HIV Australia.

The assure, claims Liu, is that “you can go back to a standard lifestyle and men and women won’t see you different[ly]”.

The truth, even so, is considerably much more complicated.

HIV Science as Artwork explores some of these complexities as it brings to everyday living the most current scientific breakthroughs in HIV through the function of 12 artists – such as Liu – who are living with HIV.

It was held to coincide with the 12th International Conference on HIV Science in July, which introduced vital advances in standard, clinical and operational HIV investigate.

The 12 artists created their is effective in collaboration with 12 researchers presenting at the convention.

Doing the job around a 90-day time period from March to May possibly, all picked artists acquired a commission to produce an first piece of work, in discussion with their companion scientist, in purchase to reflect the concepts of their scientific work.

Liu was paired with Kane Race, Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies at the College of Sydney, and author of The Gay Science: Intimate Experiments with the Trouble of HIV (Routledge, 2018).

Race’s presentation was titled ‘Key Worries for the Social Sciences in the Fifth 10 years of HIV’.

The pair shared their ideas and impressions over about ten on the internet sessions right before Liu went to perform.

“I (required) to notify people today the notion that U=U is not the ultimate respond to for almost everything,” states Liu.

Race details out that the concept of “undetectable” sounds uncomplicated.

“But there is a large amount of labour powering it,” he says.

“Not only does the individual residing with HIV have to consider a person or more tablets a day, but it’s also about going to health professionals just about every couple of months and doing viral load tests.”

Which is because to retain the “undetectable” standing, a regular tests routine was required.

Kairon Liu and Kane Race. Credit score: Denise Cullen

This represented a type of “clinical surveillance” which discouraged criminalised communities this kind of as intercourse personnel, drug consumers or even folks living with HIV in some parts of the environment from running their wellbeing.

“For some men and women, (testing) is possible, mainly because they have social privileges,” Race states.

“So, in Australia, it does not seem terrifying to white homosexual men to go in and do this,” he adds.

But a migrant on a quick-term visa, who is hoping to turn into a long lasting resident of Australia, may well keep away from testing simply because of worry of deportation, Race points out.

Many others would sidestep testing owing to the disgrace or the stigma.

Race suggests the melding of art and science in the exhibition broadens and deepens the discussion about these concerns in a way that 1, or the other, couldn’t do alone.

“(Artwork) also engages you emotionally in a way that my monotonous papers almost certainly really do not,” he suggests.

For Liu, this get the job done is deeply revealing.


He’s not just the man in the photograph whose deal with is hidden. He is – ahem – the proprietor of the phallus far too.

Again property in Taiwan, Liu originally intended to create a sculpture applying 3D scanning and printing methods.

I (desired) to explain to men and women the strategy that U=U is not the best solution for all the things.

Kairon Liu

“I was like, ‘Why not make it much more personalized?’ So that’s why I selected to use my individual overall body,” he says.

He then crammed the clear sculpture with additional than 1500 donated antiretroviral tablets – all expired and some relationship again to the 1980s – before soldering it shut.

“I wished to create this invisible wall concerning two types of folks – who are outdoors the neighborhood or inside of the neighborhood or who are detectable and who are undetectable,” he describes.

Upcoming Liu points to an vacant sliver of space at the tip of the glans where by there are no tablets.

This, he claims, signifies the virus which still lingers in your entire body even when it’s “undetectable”.

(According to Ending HIV, any viral load of 200 “copies” for each mL or a lot less is regarded as undetectable.)

It was a daring approach on several concentrations, but as anyone who’s experienced dealings with Australian Border Force may possibly now suspect, Liu hit a snag when it arrived to finding his artwork into the nation.

That’s when he made the decision to turn it into a photograph as well, introducing a different dimension – the intermingling of desire and fear, which is apparent in the impression.

Race notes that the importation headache correctly turned just one artwork into two.

“I really enjoy the photograph, as nicely as the sculpture, for the reason that it conveys how in some cases the easy act of using a capsule can be laden with a complete lot of feelings, such as shame or ambivalence,” he claims.

The specific nature of the graphic also restores the part of sex to the discussion.

“Because you can minimise your sexual transmissibility as a result of capsule taking … that is pretty eye-catching to policymakers, mainly because you don’t have to communicate about sexual intercourse in public, you never have to raise issues all-around homosexuality, drug use and all of these points,” Race states.

“That’s the idealisation of remedy as avoidance.

“But in actuality, when you are residing with HIV, you just cannot just get rid of the sexual facets or the sexual shaming.”

Other intriguing is effective in the exhibition include Dani Marti’s Ay Maricón! which utilized reclaimed domestic plastic to reply to RMIT’s Professor Melissa Churchill’s research on why single cells harbour latent HIV viruses.

When you’re dwelling with HIV, you just can’t just get rid of the sexual aspects or the sexual shaming

Professor Kane Race

There is also Jaewon Kim’s Brilliance in Fragments, which places acrylic mirrors and LED signage to work reflecting study undertaken by Krittaporn Termvanich, from the Institute of HIV Investigate and Innovation in Thailand, on leveraging advances in engineering and screening to encourage self-care.

HIV science was “lifesaving and lifestyle-changing” but insufficient on its have, states Eamonn Murphy, Director of the Regional Assistance Teams for Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia regions, UNAIDS.

“We have normally essential artwork to assist us arrive to phrases with what is and get up to speed with what can be,” he suggests.

Eamonn murphy.
Eamonn Murphy. Credit rating: Provided.

All artworks, which span vogue style and design to portray to pictures to sculpture, are for sale alongside catalogues, significant-high-quality art prints, and postcard sets.

The proceeds will be applied to help systems and products and services for folks living with HIV in the Asia Pacific location.

HIV Science as Art operates till 5 August 2023 at Metro Arts (97 Boundary Road, West Conclude).

It is a project of the Countrywide Association of Persons Living with HIV Australia in partnership with the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Wellness, Holdsworth Residence Health-related Practice, Metro Arts, the Global AIDS Modern society, Queensland Favourable Men and women and UNAIDS.

Funding for the task has been provided by ViiV Health care by way of an unrestricted educational grant. Further facts on U=U is offered from the National Association of Men and women with HIV Australia.