International Women’s day: Challenging HIV stigma

Today I was invited to celebrate International Women’s Day in Culemborg. Foundation Intercultureel Vrouwen Culemborg (DIVC) organized a party with the theme ”Freedom”. The event started at 13h with a speech from the municipal councillor of culture. Then a poem read by a poet from Culemborg. Throughout the programme there were many different performances from different cultures, choirs, bellydancers and fashion shows.

I was there to share my story: HIV and Freedom. This was a story of living through 17 challenging years with HIV. You know that I am always ready to take any opportunity to fight HIV stigma. In a way, these 17 years have also been a walk to freedom and that is what I wanted to share:

In short, my story covered three stages towards freedom:

  1. A new beginning when I went on ARVs and was able to fall pregnant and have healthy children
  2. Out of the closet: When I finally was open to speak about my status
  3. HIV stigmafighter: Adressing inequalities and stigma around HIV

I stressed that you cannot gain freedom without a fight. And that is why I am a stigmafighter. To fight the stigma we still face everyday, lift people out of isolation because when you are hidden you are not free!

After my story I ended with my poem the mask. People approached me with compliments and told me how my story touched. Some women said they never talk about HIV at home, and seeing me being so open about HIV and sharing my ups and downs, and my success so far, they told me “You are a Superwoman”. We finished with a very inspiring female DJ from Morocco. Wow, she can really sing and DJ at the same time. All women from different cultures went crazy on the dancefloor. Any song she played, we just danced and were happy to be together.

Us women face different challenges in our life. Even when we think we are in a free country, we still need to fight for our freedom. I am glad I was able to inspire more women in Culemborg. For those that were there: You are all my Superwomen!

#EachforEqual. Happy women’s day to all of Us.

Peace, Eliane

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