The Faculty Diversity Office interviews a staff member of the Faculty of Science every month about a book, a film or something else that has inspired them in some way. This month in "Faces of Science Park": Erik Persoon. He has been working at the FNWI since this summer. The American hospital series 'Grey's Anatomy' was a great source of inspiration for Erik.
Erik: 'I am a 28-year-old resident of Utrecht (that means 'gay' in the Utrecht dialect). Since 2005, I have been the biggest fan of the TV series 'Grey's Anatomy'. This hospital series stars Meredith Grey and I get a remarkable amount of strength from this series. When I was in high school in 2005 she was still an intern at the hospital. Fifteen years later, she is now one of the best (fictional) surgeons in the world, despite everything she has experienced.
Meredith has drowned in those fifteen years, crashed in an airplane, she was nearly shot and exploded by a bomb. she was badly beaten by a patient and she tragically lost her husband, parents, sister, best friend and her unborn child. She is currently in a coma because of the corona virus.'
'When I lost my (until then) favorite job in a short time, I lost my father' lost 'to multiple brain haemorrhages (he is still alive, but is no longer the same person) and I received a phone call that I was infected with the HIV virus , I was very sad. Fortunately, I had several people that I dared to tell everything to, including a good friend. After seventeen seasons, she was also still a fan of Grey's Anatomy, just like me. When I told her how I was doing, she immediately said, "But if Meredith can handle so much, then you can too."
This may sound crazy, but I believe that this character has indeed unconsciously motivated me to keep going. Especially after the HIV phone call, I realized that I could turn it 'into something beautiful'. After all, I only cried because of the stigma that still prevails in the field of HIV and was afraid of what others would think of me. I wanted to combat this stigma by being open about my status. I thought it would be nice to be a role model for everyone who was like me. A kind of 'Beyoncé for HIV-positive people'.
One super small pill a day makes the virus undetectable and therefore I cannot transmit it even with unsafe sex. I hoped that if I spoke openly and honestly about my situation and shared my experiences with the world, others would be less sad. A few months later I was on the cover of a magazine for fellow sufferers, I spoke at conferences in Carré and the Beurs van Berlage and a camera crew from the SBS 6 program Hart van Nederland came to my house.
That turned out to be the best decision of my life. Since then, more than ten people have asked me for advice on how to deal with this situation. I recently even heard that an HIV-positive friend from Utrecht had long struggled with suicidal thoughts, because he had not yet shared his secret with anyone. When he read the responses to my "second coming out", his concerns disappeared. He is now also open about his status.
'And now a happy note: I am extremely proud to be able to carry out this great communication work at one of the most beautiful and best universities in the world. Due to the home working situation, I have met few colleagues in real life, but thanks to Zoom and Teams I know that only great people work at the FNWI (and the UvA). Moreover, I am extremely grateful that I was offered this great job during the corona crisis. '
'I would like to end with my favorite quote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. Let's all keep a close eye on each other in these crazy times. Then I hope to see you all soon at Science Park! '
This is a publication of the Faculty Diversity Office.