It Isn’t A Sin (A Virus Has No Morals)

Wednesday 1 December 2021

This World AIDS Day lecture will take place in-person (Forum Seminar Room 2, Streatham Campus) and will also be live-streamed via Zoom. Please make sure you book the correct ticket when registering.


Abstract: As 2021 marks 40 years since the public onset of the AIDS crisis, we are increasingly surrounded by media narratives that revisit the crisis by bringing us certain visions of the past. While, at a time of newer pandemics, looking at the past may reenergise us to fight in the present and give new generations a way into a history that can also be theirs, the stories that populate our screens remain partial about the past, reproduce common-places and long-discredited assumptions, and overlook the present of the HIV and AIDS crisis in a gesture of cultural closure that tell us the AIDS crisis is gone. That, of course, is not the case. Millions of people continue to live with HIV worldwide, and many of them unable to afford or have access to effective treatments that have been available since the mid-1990s. With the COVID-19 pandemic having been marked by self-righteous virtue signalling and policing of behaviours, and with having once again revealed the ongoing gaps in access to healthcare and preventative medicine between the wealthiest and the poorest, it is fundamental that we start telling the history of past pandemics in different ways, that we better account for their social, cultural, and economic dimensions. Most importantly, as the history of AIDS shows us, it is important that we build solidarity and that we do not blame individuals for the circulation of a virus that has no morals.