Beyond a ‘post-cure’ world: Sketches for a new futurology of hepatitis C Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Australia's recent investment in, and optimism about, direct-acting antivirals to treat hepatitis C brings with it the promise of new drug futures, including the possibility of a post-hepatitis C world and a revolution in the lives of people affected by the disease. But is the situation more complicated than we might assume? What expectations are being produced about post-cure lives? And what is being overlooked along the way? We argue that hepatitis C policy, practice and research can instantiate a problematic orientation towards medicine and 'the future' and explore ways of moving beyond these orientations. The essay then proceeds into two main stages. First, combining critiques from existing research with preliminary insights from a new study on hepatitis C 'post-cure' lives, we outline some of the key logics regarding cure and post-cure, and explain why such logics are problematic. We argue against the assumption that the availability of a medical cure will alone reverse the entrenched social, political and structural dynamics that drive infections and limit service access. To do so, we note, is to overlook the net of meanings and power relations that co-constitute hepatitis C and injecting drug use and render those associated with them marginalised and disenfranchised. Such optimism erases the legacy of laws and policies devised in a pre-cure world, and their role in generating and limiting new ways of being. Second, we introduce new ideas to the field and articulate a vision for what we call a 'futurology' of hepatitis C, designed to counter these assumptions and take us beyond problematic temporal logics. Our futurology is inspired by the work of Cuevas-Hewitt (2011) on the 'futurology of the present'. Cuevas-Hewitt's approach discards linear temporalities, expectations of revolution and reform, and instead pays attention to multiplicities of becoming in the perpetual present. Taking up ideas from Cuevas-Hewitt, we introduce our own sketches for a 'futurology of hepatitis C'. This is a set of practices for thinking, researching, writing about and otherwise engaging with hepatitis C, characterised by attention not to what an imagined, singular future might look like, or to assumptions about treatment as revolutionary, but to what Cuevas-Hewitt (2011) calls the multiple 'perpetual presents' already with us, and aims to foment hope for change.

publication date

  • January 2021