Hans Meex from Simpelveld has been living with the HIV virus that causes AIDS for about 37 years. When he heard that he was infected with HIV, he never thought he would make it to 30. He is now 56 years old.
This Wednesday is World AIDS Day and he tells his story.
Meex contracted the disease through a blood transfusion because he is a hemophiliac. That is a rare blood clotting disease. He had also become infected with Hepatitis C. Meex did not get sick from his HIV infection and therefore found out years later by accident at the doctor after a few tests in 1991.
Meex remembers very well the day he heard that he had HIV. “I was afraid to infect my wife, but luckily I couldn’t. There were no medicines then and we knew very little about it. Only that after an infection you had ten years to live. I thought I was 30 years old. wouldn’t make it.” Yet it worked. “I celebrated my 30th birthday with a garden party that went on until morning.” Meex has now also reached more than 50 and is now aiming for 80.
After Meex knew he had HIV and Hepatitis C, he decided to keep it a secret from many people. “Even my parents didn’t know. There was quite a stigma attached to it. In 2011, I became ill with hepatitis C and after a medical roller coaster I was rejected.”
They also see at the GGD that there is still a taboo about HIV. Nicole Dukers works at the GGD and is committed to the Limburg4zero program. “Our mission is to get zero new HIV infections. But for many people it is a big barrier to get tested.” That is why the GGD has now developed home tests. “Someone can easily order this online and then do it at home in a familiar environment,” says Dukers.
According to her, there are about 1000 HIV patients in Limburg and an estimated 70 people who have it but do not know it. “We really call on everyone who suspects they may be infected to get tested, because it can be treated well if you are on time.”
In addition to testing, the GGD hopes that people will also use PrEP pills and consultations with the GGD or nurse. In this way they try to be able to offer tailor-made prevention for everyone.
Meex no longer works, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t do anything anymore. “I now give training courses and guest lectures at the Maastricht UMC+ academy. I share my experiences with the new generation of healthcare providers.” According to Meex, healthcare staff should realize that there is not just a patient sitting opposite them. “It is someone with or without a partner, with a job or no job, maybe financial problems. Those are all things that being sick has an influence on. That is quickly forgotten.”
Meex does have some advice for people who hear that they have HIV. “Live your life the way you want it. With one tablet a day you can lead a very normal life. Then HIV is a chronic disease. And come out of it. There is still a taboo, but that is becoming less and less known about it is, the easier living with HIV becomes for someone.”