Harlen Munsö: PrEP-ing for the future
Harlen Munsö is an American ‘artist-in-residence’ at Village Berlin and he’s currently collecting stories from people using PrEP as part of a bigger art project. He will present his work in progress in Berlin on March 13th at an event provocatively titled: Raw Fuck: Towards a Better Future. We asked Munsö some questions about his art and science collaboration.
Why have you decided to create this story/art piece about PrEP?
“In America, when PrEP became available, I witnessed my community shaming individuals who were taking PrEP. This was a complete disaster. It took years for some individuals to accept PrEP as a healthy option. When I wrote my proposal for this project, I was curious as to how Germany might be adjusting to this new method of protection against contracting HIV. I was worried that history would repeat itself and individuals would be shamed for using PrEP.”
“I’m working on an art video about HIV prevention and PrEP. I’m conducting interviews with people who are on PrEP or interested in taking it. The interviews take 15 minutes. This project is a safe space where people can talk about their connection with sex while taking PrEP, or why they would like to be on PrEP.” – Harlen Munsö
What do you hope will be the best possible outcome?
“If this project has any positive impact on individuals and their understanding of PrEP, I would say it’s a success. I think it’s irresponsible for people to say that condoms are the only solution for protection against contracting HIV. Instead, families should also be asking their kids if they have considered PrEP.”
What has the journey been like so far?
“Arriving in Berlin, a place people associate with liberated sex, has been interesting as it is a bit of a challenge to find people who feel comfortable talking about sex on video. “
Can you talk a little more about PrEP?
“PrEP is not only protecting the physical health of gay men, it’s also having a massive impact on the psychological health of those taking PrEP, and on the entire gay community, which includes those already infected with HIV. It’s doing this by removing fear. I believe that fear can cause people to behave in undesirable and sometimes cruel ways. The fear of contracting HIV had led to the uninfected being wary of contact with the infected. And the infected had fear of passing on HIV to the uninfected. This promoted a psychology of the uninfected being referred to as ‘clean’ and the infected as ‘unclean.’ This can take a tremendous toll on the psychological health, self-image, and self-worth of those deemed as ‘unclean.’ PrEP is not only removing the fear of having sex (which is tremendously liberating in and of itself), it is erasing the stigma previously associated with those already infected with HIV and returning everyone to an equal status.”
How can people get involved?
“I’m still looking for 5 more individuals to interview for this video project. If any Romeos would be willing to meet with me for 15 minutes to talk about their experiences with PrEP, that would be extremely helpful. Anyone interested in sharing their story can contact me on my ROMEO account, TravelingArtist. Also, if anyone is curious to learn more about this project, PrEP, or HIV in general, please come to the discussion, Raw Fuck: Towards a Better Future on Tuesday, March 13th from 20:00-22:30 in Village Berlin. The final video will be presented at Instinct #5 on March 29th in Berlin.”
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