AIDS 2018 - Opening Session speech - Dinah de Riquet-Bons (board member Hiv Vereniging)
I received my HIV diagnosis in 1991 in New York on a hot summer's day at the piers near Christopher street. I can hardly describe what an affect my HIV diagnosis had on me at age 21, knowing there was no future for people living with HIV and AIDS back then. The only perspective was getting sick, deteriorating, and dying painfully with no treatment and no cure.
From that moment onwards I learned about society's stigma, exclusion, discrimination, anger, hate and fear towards those living with HIV and AIDS . I saw my communities fighting day by day with no hope. We lived without a notion of tomorrow or the future.
Now see me at the age of 48, standing here in front of you as a proud trans women of colour, a long-term survivor, an HIV and trans sexwork activist. It’s an enormous honour and an important momentum for me, and all the communities I represent, to welcome you all here together with our minister of foreign trade and development Mrs. Kaag, at the opening of the 22nd international aids conference.
Transgender sexworkers are fighting every day to survive poverty, violence, homelessness, joblessness and bad access to healthcare. We face exclusion, discrimination and racism at all levels of society. We are highly affected by power structures that do not include us. We must work way harder to achieve a good quality of life and equal access to healthcare.
How can we stop HIV and AIDS and fight such inequality which, at the end of the day, affects us all?
How do we end the disproportionate suffering of over-represented groups in key populations affected by HIV and AIDS?
These are questions to which people from my community have valid answers, yet we are not invited to contribute our knowledge and experience when decisions are made on what could and should be done to end the epidemic.To those of you in positions of power, I say: Build bridges to those groups that are made invisible by society because of fear, of phobia and stigma, discrimination and racism.
Trans sexworkers, especially black and those of colour living with HIV, are the most stigmatized, discriminated people worldwide and experience the highest rates of murder and suicide.
But, we, people living with HIV, are not here as a window dressing. Building bridges means sitting at the table when decisions are being made, it means giving us a voice and inviting us to reflect when making policies on sexwork, on human trafficking and on STI and HIV prevention.
Yet time and time again the GIPA principles are overlooked or ignored. Let’s strengthen collaborative governance, not weaken it. It is quintessential if we want to reach zero new HIV infections.
Lastly, we need the undetectable = untransmittable or "U = U" message to become standard knowledge worldwide. It needs to sound louder every day, as this eases the burden of stigma and self-stigma of people living with HIV.It will save lives. It will reduce suicides and murders on trans sex workers especially.
Please give all your wisdom, knowledge and power in the coming days to contribute to the fight against HIV and AIDS, and to change our narratives.Together we can beat the virus, and together we can shape the future for our generations to come.