Ethel, age 60 / Paramaribo, Suriname


I’m one of the long-term survivors. I’m not use medicines because my viral load is undetectable and my CD4 cell is still high. I have a healthy lifestyle. I’m thinking positive. And also, I love myself. I’m one of the public speakers in my country, in Suriname. I was living in Holland, and I got the feeling that it was a taboo in Suriname at that time. And I take the decision, I left Holland – I was living there 30 years – to go back in Suriname to break the silence there. Yes.

I am working full time. I’m leader of support group. I’m a practiced social worker – I’m study for that when I was living in Holland. In 2008, I‘m starting a organization, they call it Double Positive Foundation. Last year I was retired, but I asked the government to let me work for another year, just this year, end of this year, I ask them one extra year, and end of this year I gonna stop. But I am the founder of that organization, maybe two time at the weeks I have to go to the office to look how thing is going. Still now, I don’t find somebody to stand by me to take my job over. I have to keep going because people don’t want to come out the closet.

When we talking about stigma and discrimination, it’s… it’s some individuals are stigmatized, some people. In Suriname, I’m come on the television, I’m come on the radio, on the newspaper. But sometimes, when you go by some places and you are, “Hello! How are you?” Then you see people put their hands, they don’t want to give you hands, then I encourage them. If I go and use the bathrooms and people see you come out the bathrooms, then you see they are standing, then you say, “You can go.” Then you see they thinking, I say, “You can GO to the bathroom. Even you know me, I living with HIV, but that is not gonna make you gonna get it.” You see? Then I encourage people, yes.

One times, I was sitting in a bus and my seats by me was free. The woman come in the bus, and the chauffeur tell her, because she was look a place to sit, and she open her eyes, then she saw me on the bus. And the people say, “Oh, a place is free.” Then she say, “No, I’m not gonna sit by a people with HIV.” And the people on the bus see I’m angry, I want to step out to say something with her, but I say, okay, let it go. You see? That was one of the day that I felt stigma. Yes.

I must tell you, for sure, meditation is my medication. Every day, in the morning and in the evening, I meditate. The whole day, inside of me, I meditate. Yes. And also, I believe that somewhere, God is also with us, too.

You see? Even is hard, maybe sometimes your eye, you gonna cry a little bit. But that moment, I gonna do my meditation, and send good wishes for the one that think he give me some pain. Yesssssssss.