St. Maarten AIDS Foundation continues to evolve with new board of directors

In ongoing efforts to become more effective in the response to HIV/AIDS, St. Maarten AIDS Foundation has appointed a new board of directors. The five member board, which includes one newcomer, attorney-at-law Brenda Brooks, is headed by long-time foundation President Dr. Gerard van Osch with former Head of Prevention Unit Rajesh Chintaman as treasurer, Ria Uiterloo as secretary and Government’s HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan Programme Manager Suzette Moses-Burton.


Apart from Brooks, the other four members are long-time volunteers and community workers who have pushed the foundation make great strides in the field of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Van Osch, said it is great to see the foundation "continue to combine experience with new and creative ideas." Many people, he added, think that HIV is not really an issue anymore, given the effective treatments and the fact that most of us have never consciously met a person living with the virus.

More than 700 people are on treatment – a combined figure for both sides of the island.

Some 50 per cent of infected persons don’t know their HIV status and are unknowingly infecting others

Taking that those two figures into consideration, it can be estimated that some 1,500 in total are infected with the virus locally.

Chintaman said, "Emphasis will be placed on the continued involvement of the entire community. Over our many years, St. Maarten has proven its resolve to support the foundation by donating, volunteering and turning out in large numbers to get tested, an integral part of any AIDS awareness programme. This is the kind of community response to HIV/AIDS that we will continue to foster in the years to come. With everyone’s support, we will make a further change for the better."

Uiterloo has been a member almost from the foundation’s inception and had served as Prevention Unit Coordinator for many years. She is the coordinator of the "Girl Power" programme in all high schools. She looks forward to the board developing strategic plans for the future as well as the implementation, rejuvenation and improvement the current projects.

With foundation Executive Director Rae Kim Merlet and Project Coordinator Kimberley Meijers on board, Uiterloo hopes to continue Girl Power through the involvement of the many volunteer health educators in the community.

Moses-Burton strengthens the board with her expertise in strategic impact; national, regional and international partnership in the field of HIV/AIDS and her promotion of advocacy.

Brooks’ involvement and interest in the fight against AIDS was spurred on by her encounters with clients living with the virus. She especially welcomed the free HIV testing in the various district "as a major factor" for the health and well being of St. Maarten. She also believes that people who are infected have the right to be defended and supported.

The AIDS Foundation is one of the oldest, consistent non-governmental organizations in the country.

For more information about HIV/AIDS, confidential counselling, free testing or to get involved, contact the AIDS Secretariat on Welfare Road, across from Tropicana Casino on 553-2626/588-4636 or Like "St. Maarten AIDS Foundation" on