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Memories expressed

University or College
KU Leuven
Master of Arts, Master of history
Year of publication: 2022




The forgotten voices of AIDS in Belgium

1 December 2021: HIV ‘celebrates’ its 40th birthday. With over 40 million victims to its name, the human immunodeficiency virus is the world’s deadliest virus. Even today, more than 38 million people, including more than 17,000 Belgians, are living with the disease. But why this writer’s doom-and-gloom tone? Surely, with medication that makes the viral load undetectable and Prep that protects against infection, the disease is no longer deadly? Yes indeed, from a medical perspective, except for a cure, the disease is pretty much resolved. However, a survey of HIV-positive Belgians showed that the stigma lives on. This survey is therefore of a social nature.


Recent series like “It’s a sin” and “Pose” successfully introduced the history of the global AIDS crisis to a wider audience. At the same time, they made it clear how little we know about the Belgian AIDS crisis and what it means to live with HIV and AIDS in Belgium. Qualitative research from the bottom up can change this. Using 16 in-depth interviews, Viktor Flamand investigated how gay men, both HIV-positive and negative, experienced the AIDS crisis in Belgium. Following this, he analysed how these same people structure and build their memories.


The result was not an unequivocal statement about living with HIV, but a diverse, layered story of 16 people with their own loss, pain and unique memories.