Positive Stories: Living and Working in HIV in Germany
Harriet has been involved in the HIV field since 1992. Her interest in Sexual Health has allowed her to work in projects for women and gain a very good insight on what living with HIV means for a woman.
Country of residence: Germany
Country of origin: Germany
Profession: Journalist (free lance with a special interest in sexual health)
What is your involvement in the HIV field?
I’m in advocacy for women and HIV/AIDS since 1992: co-founder of Germany’ national Network for Women and AIDS; Chief editor of DHIVA – Germany’s special interest magazine for women on sexuality, health and HIV; hosting women centred projects (as e.g. the Network, the DHIVA; the SHE Programme, The Sexworkers’ Project Voice4Sexworkers (V4S), Lifeboat Germany) at the foundation GSSG – Charitable Foundation Sexuality and Health
How has HIV influenced and / or shaped your everyday life and habits?
In too many ways as I can explain here: professionally, I started as managing director/CEO of Germany’s National AIDS Foundation in the 1990ies; as a researcher in sexology and as a volunteer and advocate in HIV prevention for women I am actually filling my days; there is little in my life that is NOT related to my professional, researcher’s or volunteer’s life...
What are the key priorities in your opinion presently in the HIV field?
- empowering women to live with HIV and without stigma; to get the best therapy available and to be seen and heard by research and science – better even to become involved
- empowering women to protect themselves from acquiring HIV: having the choice to decide about their best prevention (from condoms to PrEP and much more)
- avoiding to create new categories among PLWH: good PLWH who are Undetectable – bad PWLH who are not. Discrimination and stigma should not be linked to my viral load
- avoiding (too) late presenting: many women do not get their diagnosis in time as doctor’s still think in “risk groups” instead of risk behaviour or indicator symptoms
Are you involved in women projects at the moment?
Yes, many, see above
How does U=U translates for a woman living with HIV?
See above. It can be an enormous relief for the individual, but it should not be a part of public prevention campaigns as it again puts the burdens of being responsible to PLWH – and allows stigmatizing those who “are detectable”
What is your view about disclosing ones status in the era of U=U?
As with any other health status: it is a very personal question and decision – and for women who raise children even more as long as there is stigma and fear related to a disclosure; however, on a broader scale, we need role models who are “out” – regardless their U
What are in your opinion the biggest misconception about a woman living with HIV? –
“they can’t have sex”; “they can’t have babies”, “they must have behaved morally dubious”
In your experience what works best when it comes to supporting women living with HIV?
Listening to them! Women are a diverse group with diverse profiles. Offering peer to peer /self-help programs; low threshold and tailor made programs (e.g. fitting to their schedules, allowing/offering child care etc.) supporting women with their daily needs
What do you think is the most important message presently for women living with HIV in Europe?
You are not alone; HIV is not the end – you can make it a life changer if you want to
Do you have any message, advise or wish for the women living with HIV in Europe?
Join! Meet other women and get involved – and if there is no specific/local group for you yet: start one!!