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.

My foster mother has taught me to be open about my HIV. She wrote a book: Brenda has a dragon in her blood. Later on, I would like to have a job counselling people on HIV. I’m very happy my foster mother didn’t want to let me live with a big secret. Otherwise I think I would have gone totally mad. If I wasn’t open and honest, I’d get myself into a jam. I’m such a chatterbox – before I know it, I’ve blurted something out. At school I don’t want to lie about having to go to hospital. Other teenagers are not so open about it. I understand that. You never know how someone is going to react. And if someone reacts badly, it can make you feel very insecure. Luckily, I have never had anyone react badly. I’ve been on the Jeugdjournaal (children’s news show) a few times and on other TV shows. People often think it’s a horrible illness, but it’s really not that bad.

In past years, I’ve always given a whole presentation about it at the start of the school year. Together with my mother, I gathered information and then explained to the class how it works: what the illness is like, how I got it, how you can live with it. Everyone responded very well: how courageous that you would dare to tell that. Now I think: no show this year; nearly all the kids in the class already know me.


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