Riek StienstraBMJ 2008; 336 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39451.522963.BE (Published 10 January 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:102
- Tony Sheldon
Riek Stienstra was perhaps the right woman in the right place at the right time. Faced with the first casualties of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, Amsterdam’s gay community suffered shock, panic, fury, and despair. But to this trauma she brought compassion, pragmatism, and leadership, launching the Netherlands first buddy projects, and ensuring that the gay community was heard in the sometimes desperate struggle against the pandemic.
Stienstra was born in rural Friesland in the north of the Netherlands in 1942. She trained as a social worker and joined the Humanitas Foundation in Amersfoort—a humanitarian organisation providing social services, partly through volunteers. In 1974 she applied to what was then known as the SAD-Schorer Foundation, a small scale “consultation bureau” for homosexuality. It reflected what were still, in the 1970s, patronising attitudes. In particular it was reluctant to employ gay men and lesbians for fear that they would be too emotionally involved.
That changed with Stienstra, who proudly declared …