World AIDS Day
Representing: H (Health) in the H.E.R.S Framework
Day 7 of #16DaysOfGlobal — Today is World Aids Day and Women’s March Netherlands interviewed Dinah de Riquet Bons, a Trans, HIV+, AIDS activist living in Amsterdam.
Dinah de Riquets-Bon is unstoppable. As the Netherlands representative for the International Society of AIDS, she will welcome 50,000+ participants to its next annual conference in Amsterdam. Herself a trans and HIV+ woman, Dinah sits on the board of directors of PROUD, the union of Dutch sex workers. She is also a member of the core team of Trans United Amsterdam, which works to support, empower and positively increase the visibility of bicultural trans people. Deeply engaged in the trans and sex worker community, Dinah regularly takes part in essential behind the scenes counselling and support. Given her inherent drive to make positive change, she also takes time to engage politically as a council member of Amsterdam. Women’s March Netherlands was honoured to be able to interview Dinah for #16DaysOfGlobal
Can you share with us your history as an activist?
Around 1990, I moved to the USA and started to live with my partner/husband Taylor Siluwé, a black porn director and writer. Our friends and community were all HIV and black LGBTQI+ activists. I was diagnosed at age 21, and immediately found myself in the group of black and hispanic LGBTQI+ youth at ACT UP, New York City. We organised rallies, and riots in Christopher Street and the piers. We helped out in the AIDS hospice on Christopher Street. At the same time I had to deal with my own HIV+ positive diagnosis. The knowledge I was now part of a group of people with no hope for life, as well as no access to housing, medication and so on meant from then on I was ready to fight with no limits.
When did you publicly disclose your HIV status and what was it like to do so at that time? Would it be different now?
I disclosed my HIV status immediately after being diagnosed at 21 in 1991. Back then it felt like a death sentence. I was losing so many friends, it seemed as though there was another funeral every week. Of course now it would be completely different, because there is treatment which makes the HIV unmeasurable, which means you can go on living a life that involves all the regular activities. Of course not everyone understands you are no longer a risk. Stigma is still a big issue.
The work of AIDS activists worldwide has been monumental but there are still many people who lack access of retroviral drugs due to prices. Do you know of any upcoming possible solutions being considered?
I believe we as HIV long term survivors should fight for the right to get access to medication on humanitarian grounds, as part of equal human rights. That fight should happen the way we did it in the 80s and 90s with ACT UP.
Have you seen the stigma around AIDS/HIV change?
At this moment I see a glimmer of change within the LGBTQI+ community, due to the effectiveness of the medication. But the continuing stigma on being sexually active, on being a woman with HIV, or a person of colour with HIV, still very much blocks the way toward real openness. Being honest about having HIV and being under treatment, so being absolutely zero risk, still can trigger aggression and violence by male partners. The tragically high number of trans murders (especially murders of trans people of colour) is directly connected to the deep rooted attitude of male dominance and the patriarchy.
While the stigma has shifted a little, it is still a very big problem.
What further work needs to be done within Europe and across the world for people living with HIV/AIDS?
We must get funding for empowerment through sex work community unions, as they are working on intersectional issues. While sex workers are part of the population most at risk for HIV/AIDS, they receive almost no funding, and have no representation in LGBTQI+ organisations, who do receive funding.
What is the best way for people to support the work of AIDS activists?
The best ways are through funding peer to peer projects in the higher risk populations, and giving political power in representation in politics to women, trans women and people of colour who are in the intersection of all those issues of health care and the people living with HIV.