In 1992, the year I was born, AIDS was the leading cause of death for men ages 25 to 44. In 1995, the FDA approved the first protease inhibitor, which would greatly decrease the mortality rate of HIV/AIDS. I was 2 years old. In 2012, Truvada was approved as an HIV-prevention tool, dramatically shifting the way gay men conceived of sex. I was 20 years old, fell in love with my first boyfriend, and finally came out to my parents.
For most of my life, AIDS was considered more of a boogeyman than a real threat. The inability to discuss and acknowledge the epidemic or the ways HIV/AIDS continues to affect disenfranchised communities and people of color is indicative of the deep trauma that continues to pervade the LGBTQ community. This period of American history, as well as the contemporary struggles that many face, should not be avoided or ignored; it is imperative that we, as a community, come together in remembrance and acknowledgement despite how painful it may be.
Utilizing fiber arts alongside nonlinear temporalities, I challenge the stasis surrounding HIV/AIDS and celebrate the work of queer vanguards. Fiber art, particularly embroidery, has historically been passed down from mother to daughter. I reference the loss of individuals from older generations through my use of this medium, as well as the physical connection between needlework and medical procedures. Throughout this series, I evoke the words, visages, and tactics of queer icons to illustrate their eternal presence. Some queer theorists contend that the specter of AIDS is ubiquitous, but perhaps it is more productive to examine the ways that individuals haunt us, whether that be through music, poetry, art, activism, or even just a name. Furthermore, we cannot allow those affected by HIV today slip into obscurity and become ghosts.