Articles

If there were no PAMA, I would feel less good

Paul arrived from Congo in Holland in 2002. He likes this country and he likes most of the Dutch.

“During my work in my country, I met a lot of foreigners. Some of my friends went to Europe, and when they returned they seemed happy. They had got themselves a living, they brought money back home. So I longed to go to Europe too. I preferred to go to Holland.
At the time I did not ask: 'How is life in Europe?' I just wanted to go there. I did not realise it could be difficult. But it was. The first months in Holland I was suffering, but luckily I could stay with a friend. He introduced me to the way of living here.”

Only one wish left
“I arrived in Holland in 2002 and in 2003 I became ill. My doctor asked me to do a HIV test. In November 2003, I found out that I am HIV positive. Now, after eight years, I am OK. I get good healthcare, I know enough people, I got my passport, and I can apply for a job now. I only have one wish left: I want to marry someone.”

Marry
“In Congo there was not much information about HIV, and therefore I had not really thought about it before I was diagnosed. In 2009, I went to visit my mother and my family in Congo and I also went to a doctor to ask whether there was an organisation for people with HIV. I liked to meet other people and perhaps help them. But my main goal was to find a girl in the same situation as me to get married to. And I found her. She is HIV positive, like me. I'd like her to come to Holland and marry, but the Dutch law is very difficult. It will be easier to marry when I have a job.”

Talk freely
“Nobody in my family knows that I am ill. I will tell them later, when I am married. When you are married it means that you plan to live a long life with your wife, you are optimistic about your future. Then it will be easier for my family to trust that I can live, even with HIV. I don't want to make them sad.
I do not miss my life in Congo very much. I telephone with my family often, that's enough for me. I like this country and most of the Dutch people. You have nice and not so nice people; that is the same everywhere and that has nothing to do with being white or black.
Most of my friends here do not know that I am ill either. You never know if they talk about you with other people. At the PAMA meetings I can talk freely about my illness, and that is important to me. If there were no PAMA, or an organization like that, I would feel less good.”

More than talking
“Some things in Holland I find strange. Yesterday, there were elections. I did not know how to vote and nobody explained it to me. I got a list but I did not know any person on it. People talked on TV but I did not understand them well enough.
Also, life is expensive here. Your wages stay the same, but the bills do not. In Paris people go on the street to join in demonstrations but here people only talk. For me, it is like there is no real opposition.
I think people need more than words and written plans. It's the same with PAMA: we do not have enough time to really develop and find out what we want to do. They pressure us and want to know how much things cost. It feels like every year we have to start from scratch again. But we need time and freedom.”

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