Ferments and the AIDS Virus: Interspecies Counter-Conduct in the History of AIDS

Article Summary by Justin Abraham Linds

In the early years of the American AIDS epidemic, numerous AIDS activists and people with AIDS started researching, teaching, and organizing experimental treatment options within committees such as the Alternative and Holistic Treatment Committee and the Treatment Alternatives Program. This paper briefly describes the committees before narrowing in on two American AIDS activists and the surprising philosophy that they developed for caring for their bodies. Describing the logic of their philosophy of care, I show that it was defiantly “interspecies.” That is, Sandor Katz and Jon Greenberg (the two activists) responded to AIDS by developing close bonds with the microscopic lifeforms—different viruses and bacteria—that they envisioned were central to surviving AIDS. This essay does not test the efficacy of their unconventional forms of care; rather, it describes the ways two AIDS activists conceptualized their illness, sometimes in ways that were defiantly opposed to medical professionals. Finally, the essay examines this philosophy of care by reading it politically and by looking at how it has circulated in popular cookbooks about fermented foods.


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