July 21, 2024

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* Bella has been living with HIV for years: ‘It’s still a big taboo in Bonaire’

* Bella has been living with HIV for years: ‘It’s still a big taboo in Bonaire’

health care

* Bella has been living with HIV for years: ‘It’s still a big taboo in Bonaire’

By Caribbean Network | Marit Severgency

*Bella (56) has been living with HIV for 26 years. For the first time, she is sharing her story under a different name. “Bonaire is a small town, but I hope my story will raise awareness. You can have a normal life with HIV. However, it is still a big taboo.

Can you take us back to the moment you discovered that?
“It was really a shock. It was during my pregnancy, when I went to the doctor for a check-up. Fortunately, I have a positive attitude, so I’m always looking forward. But it was hard to hear that.”

It’s now been 26 years. StopWhat’s it like to live with HIV?
“I take my medication daily and have to get checked twice a year, but other than that I live my life normally. I’m happy. There are worse things, like cancer.

At first it bothered me more. Then I found it difficult to accept it. Now I only have to take one pill a day, but at the time I would sometimes take up to 12!

Then sometimes I would take it and sometimes I wouldn’t, because I didn’t know how important it was. In the past, guidance was not as it is now.

But fortunately I never thought about death. “I had no fear that I would die from it.”

Chronic disease: HIV is a chronic disease that is easily treated with medications. There are 80 known cases on Bonaire, but nurse Audrey Statti Torres, who supervises people living with HIV, believes that number is higher. She said this before Caribbean Network (link to another article). “How hard to say. Double? Triple?”

Can you talk about that? MAnd your environment?
“I don’t like to talk about it because not everyone understands it. My current partner and my children know it. If someone close to me tells me about it, I will share it.

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My ex, who gave it to me, preferred not to talk about it. He felt guilty for taking him home.

Have sexuality and protection from sexually transmitted diseases ever been discussed within your family? Or only after you test positive?
To be honest, this wasn’t a topic I talked about with my kids at the time. I wasn’t self-aware and didn’t have the same mindset that I have now. Nowadays I think this is the responsibility of the parents. “I will talk to my grandson about it.”

Are there at the moment Enough attention to HIV on Bonaire?
“No, that is missing. There is still a stigma surrounding it. For example, also in the workplace. For example, I was rejected for a job because of my situation. I think it was due to insufficient knowledge and perhaps fear of damaging the image.”

It is important that awareness is raised on a large scale. For example with a long-term campaign. It would also be great if there was a support group for positive people.

People are still afraid of testing. What will you say to him?And I want to say?
“I think it’s mainly down to shame. The shame of society finding out, the fear about what their family will think, the worry about whether they’ll still be able to have a partner… But I would say: just get tested. Only then You will know more.”

And if it’s already positive? What should they know then?
“You will have many questions, but you will be well guided. If you take your medications, go for tests and take good care of yourself, you don’t have to be afraid. Then you don’t really have to think about death. You will die one day, but not from HIV.” Humanity.

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Do you also think they should talk about it with those around them?
I think it depends on what your family is like. Some won’t accept it. If your family is not aware of the issue, it can actually create an unpleasant situation. Then I would say I’d rather not do it. Make sure you get good information yourself, so you feel empowered.

But if you intentionally keep it quiet, stand upCan we then break the taboo?
“It really depends on developments in HIV awareness. What circle you’re in.”

The situation in the workplace Does nurse Audrey Statti Torres, who counsels people with HIV, understand Bella’s story about an employer not hiring someone because they are HIV-positive? “I hear that people are afraid to tell people at work. But it is against the law to fire someone or not hire them because they are HIV positive. People need to know that and stand up for themselves! Although I understand that this is difficult in a small community like Bonaire .

*The name is known to the Caribbean Network editorial team