Sunday, December 04, 2005

How I got to know Aids

On May 22 1997, during the "3rd International Conference on Home and Community Care for Persons Living with HIV/AIDS, Amsterdam, 21-24 May 1997" I had a retransmission of the radio program I was doing called Global Perspective at the local lesbian gay radio station MVS. Due to that reason, my colleague Andre and I decided to have the program in English and invited a participant at the conference as our studio guest. I had a personal column each month and for this special retransmission I wrote my column about how I learned about Aids as a teenager in Curacao. A couple of days later I do my share for the World Aids Day.

How I got to know Aids
It must have been during the ‘school vacations’ in July, when school closes for six weeks in Curacao. The year must have been 1983 or 1984. My cousin Sharela was spending the holidays with us. While all of us, my brother, sister and me, were young and innocent and just leaving primary school, Sharela was already at the ‘big children school’. She knew about things like sex and masturbation. And about how to get pregnant, or preventing that of happening. One night I was reading the evening newspaper and saw a picture of a man in a hospital bed. Another man was holding his hand. Sharela, our big cousin, read the article with the picture and lectured us in her way: ‘Oh, that man there is dying of Aids. He got ill!’

I asked Sharela what Aids was. She told me: Aids is a disease man that are homosexuals get!’ We put the newspaper away and continuing dancing, at the beat of Michaels Jackson’s Billie Jean. At the age of thirteen I was more interested in trying to imitate the dance moves of the video clip of Billie Jean then in a ‘disease man that are homosexuals can get’.
I didn’t know at that moment that the fact I loved watching other boys in swimming suits made me a homosexual. Aids became familiar to me before homosexuality did.

Maybe one year after the newspaper incident the Aids prevention campaign of the Curacao government started. A cartoon was published in the newspaper picturing a man and a woman flirting. At the end the woman says to the man that she would only do it with a condom. Because of Aids. Later the famous youth band Name made a song about it: Para Sida, e ta kibra bo bida/ Stop Aids, it ruins your life.

( Gabriello Cruz, singer Name)

I got acquainted with the disease, and the fact you could get it through sex.

It must have been years later, maybe after my migration to Holland in 1989, that I heard about risk groups affected by Aids etc. I became a homosexual and became sexually active and learned to use condoms. Sometimes I still remember the newspaper incident.
It is funny to see at this moment, that in my voluntary work, I’m working with the black gay group Strange Fruit, trying to set up a support group for black and migrant people infected and affected by HIV and Aids. The support group has started with social meetings and is called Together We Live!. Strange Fruit organized it together with the Amsterdam section of of the Dutch HIV Association.

I know now that Aids is not ‘a disease man that homosexuals are get’. But any way, Sharela, the cousin who knew it all, later became pregnant at a moment she didn’t wanted it. Even people that knows a lot, have more things to learn. So do I.

May 22 1997

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