HIV/AIDS stigma highlighted at gay pride event

Published: 5 August 2003 0:00 CET

Raimond Dusijens, Netherlands Red Cross

With hundreds and thousands of spectators lining Amsterdam’s famous canals, the Canal Pride was a great opportunity for the Netherlands Red Cross to highlight and support the International Federation’s global campaign against the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS - “The Truth About AIDS. PASS IT ON...”

Participating for the second year running in the canal parade, the Netherlands Red Cross tried to tackle the ignorance surrounding HIV transmission by enacting scenarios on a long catwalk. Using messages from the “You cannot get AIDS by….”part of the anti-stigma campaign, Red Cross participants used humour to show six ways the disease cannot be transmitted. Such as by kissing, sharing a meal or drink or sharing an office or toilet. By taking their clothes off – but not completely – two Red Cross staff relayed the message that sharing a shower would not pass on the virus. The day’s activities were an attempt to get people to treat people living with HIV/AIDS in the same way as anyone else.

“The underlying issue for us as the Red Cross is the fact whether someone has the virus or not is irrelevant: we should treat everybody in the same way. The Red Cross, after all, assists unconditionally,” says Aïcha Lubbinge of the Netherlands Red Cross.

The Red Cross show, staged on a boat during the four-hour parade, was presented by Mayday, a famous transvestite in Amsterdam. At regular intervals, British disco diva Rozalla sang her hits for the excited spectators along the canals.

“After so many years one would expect that the people in the Netherlands knew what the risks are, how infections are (not) transmitted,” says Lubbinge. “Yet the number of HIV infections is rising again and with it is the discrimination. We are still confronted, for example, by the fact that parents send their children to another school when they are told that there is a child in the class with HIV. It seems we still have a lot of explanation and dissemination to do,” she adds.

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