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From worried sisters to valuable buddies

Historica nr. 1 2023 – jaargang 46


“Fellow sufferers…they helped me tremendously.” With these words, Johan C., one of 19 historical witnesses in my research, indicated the importance of informal information exchange during the AIDS epidemic alongside official and medical communication such as government campaigns and doctor consultations. Yet both in Johan’s testimony and in the other historical testimonies, it did not remain just peer contact, but appeared to involve a much wider informal information circuit from family and friends to buddy systems and other initiatives. But what were the concrete options in Flanders and Brussels, how were they experienced, what information circulated within these informal networks and was there also a circulation of ignorance?


Ellen Van Laer


Not only official and medical networks proved important in the circulation of information during the AIDS epidemic. The historical witnesses Ellen Van Laer interacted with as part of her thesis also emphasised the importance of more informal networks such as family, friends and peers. These networks, their history, experiences with them and memories of them are the subject of this article.