How many men and women in Suriname with HIV dare to show themselves in public? What dangers do Russian activists put themselves in when they report to us problems in their country? These are just two of the many questions that we raised with ATLAS2018 this year; and those weren’t even the most pressing…
Because how important is the new medication program for the survival of children in Zambia? And how crucial are all those container clinics along the highway in South Africa for the truckers and sex workers who visit them every day?
Just posing the question makes it clear how difficult it must be for the people it concerns, to answer. If ATLAS2018 has taught me anything this week, it’s that life for HIV-infected in and outside The Netherlands is often incomparable. In Amsterdam we talk enthusiastically about Prep, and rightly so, we organize parties and events to continue to emancipate the HIV community, all good fun and important too, but the violence, isolation, threats of dismissal and the struggle for life saving medication in Lusaka, South Africa and Moscow is something completely different.
That’s why we created ATLAS to make all these differences visible and to, hopefully, in some small way contribute to improving the lives of those infected with HIV elsewhere. Knowing full well that we are no more than a channel for the courage and perseverance of the people we bring into view.
There is a busy year ahead for us. That fits in with our ambitious goal and that suits us. ATLAS2018 has the drive of a young dog, the ambition of the president on his first day and the desire of a love-struck teenager…. We want, we will, we need to!!! We are naive, impetuous, and at the same time in our right minds, because although we are crazy, we are not totally crazy!
Besides the stories from Suriname, Russia, Zambia, South Africa and Botswana, we want to attend the conference in Durban, in preparation for the one in Amsterdam in 2018. We are going to start searching for the medical scientists who are closest to finding a solution to rid us of HIV and AIDS forever. And in a few weeks we will be creating an open platform on ATLAS for people with HIV who want to tell their story.
Last year we laid the foundations. There was a lot of hard thinking and hard work. We launched our website and gave the first of some very special people a face. Many thanks to Horst and all the men and women at Helping Hand. A big ‘hug’ for Renate, Carsten and Thomas from Berlin. And many thanks to Ulla Pape for sharing her knowledge about HIV in Russia.
2015 was also important for us as a group. We have become a team! Professional, passionate, loyal! Children, we are. A bunch of terrible children, with their hearts in the right place!
It’s January 18th. The day has already begun, but it is still dark outside. The freshly fallen snow has made the city a picture.
Then I hear in the background the first news bulletin of the day. Attacks, hunger, strife, and finally the weather forecast. More snow is expected. If this year ATLAS can be the one snowflake that helps make outside more beautiful then I think our efforts have been worthwhile.
For everyone a happy and healthy 2016.