When I have my staying permit I will be able to stand up and talk

Patrick arrived from Cameroon in Holland in 1999. His life here has not been easy, but his faith gives him strength and optimism.

“Of course I had to get used to this new place, in the way everybody has to get used to a different and new country. You have to build up a new life and you have to get to know your new surroundings. But it was not difficult to find a job at the time and I could earn my own living. I am religious, my faith gives me strength, optimism. Yes, I did feel welcome here.”


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.”


I would like to talk with Dutch HIV positive people

If there would be as much access to medication there as in Holland, Angela would love to go back to Ghana, her country. She misses living in unity with her family and neighbours.

“I live in Holland since 2005; the first three years I did not have documents and that was very difficult. I lost my brother, sister and mother because of aids. My mother was HIV positive, but she did not go for check-ups and they said it was meningitis. My brother died due to a shortage in medication. Sometimes they give you your medicine and sometimes not, because there is nothing in stock.”


Sometimes I feel ashamed to complain

Cheyenne came over from Burundi, because living there became too dangerous for her. Living in Holland has disappointed her, because she has had mixed experiences.

“In Burundi I had a better life than I have here. But after I was tested HIV positive, my husband got violent. Also, over there, there was a very heavy stigma on HIV. Last but not least, there was a war going on between two tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis. I am a child from both parts, my mother is a Tutsi and my father a Hutu, so we, my brothers and sisters, are mixed children and we did not feel safe there. There was always a conversation about where we belonged. It was very dangerous too. I wanted to stay in Burundi, because I thought that I could manage remaining there. I even paid for my medication myself. It was very expensive but I could afford it.”


You have to be authentic

Kente Ayo came from Kenya to Holland. He feels good, but he is concerned about the people in his homeland, and he criticizes the European way of portraying them.

“When I arrived in Holland I was aware of my HIV. I feel balanced and healthy. I take medication; sometimes it feels like I'm constantly going to the hospital, but regular checkups are important. Many people think that attending doctors and going to health centres is difficult. But for me it is not; the only difference is the theme: HIV.”


lifeboat, HIV - Daring to share

lifeboatdocumentaryLifeboat is a living web-documentary where you can find stories of people living with HIV in Europe. Some of the people you will meet here have never spoken openly about their HIV status. In these films they share with you why they feel they can't disclose. Join their journey. Visit the website lifeboatfilms.org.

Brenda (14)

boyfriend: not any more
children: none
HIV+: 14 years
HIV meds: 13 years
viral load: undetectable
CD4-cell count: 627

I’m such a chatterbox
When I was one year old, my mother fled with me from the civil war in Rwanda. My mother was admitted to hospital in the Netherlands with AIDS. Then she passed away. I also had AIDS. The medication came in time for me though, and it’s worked so well that I no longer say that I have AIDS, but that I’m HIV positive. A few months before my mother passed away I went to live with a foster family and I still live there now.


Gary (34)

technical services coordinator at an IT company
boyfriend: 3 years
children: none
HIV+: 1 year
HIV meds: none
viral load: 1,200
CD4-cell count: 400

It’s not nearly as bad as I had thought
After I had been in a relationship for a half year, my boyfriend told me he had HIV. I was angry that he hadn’t told me sooner. But I do understand how difficult it is to tell someone – there is never a right moment for it. I was also angry because we’d had unprotected sex. I can’t believe he put me at risk! But it was also partly my fault: I never asked any questions when we stopped using condoms. Now I’ve accepted it. I was afraid that I would become terribly ill and die soon after. Now I’m well informed. It’s not nearly as bad as I had thought.


Floor (37)

customer service representative at a bank
boyfriend: 7 years
children: 2 daughters (9 and 10)
HIV+: 4 years
HIV meds: 3 year
viral load: undetectable
CD4-cell count: 650

We’re linked to each other by the virus
I had an on-and-off relationship for a while; that was pretty tough going. When we’d broken up for two months at one point, he was seeing other women. After we got back together, one of those women rang him up to say she had HIV. It turned out my boyfriend had it too. I thought: I’m never ill, so it won’t happen to me. Still, I went to the doctor to get tested.



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