On August 8, Doreen Moraa will be 27 years old. This birthday will mean a lot to her because it will mark 27 years of living with HIV/AIDS.
She was born to a discordant couple, which means one of her parents is HIV positive while the other is negative. All of her four siblings are HIV negative.
“My parents told me about my HIV status when I was 13,” Doreen told The Weight She Carries. “At that point it didn’t seem like something serious to me, so I didn’t take it seriously. It didn’t affect me in anyway because my mum treated me with goodies every time we went to the hospital. I saw it as a good thing because my treats were going to be constant every month.”
While Doreen is open about her status now, she kept it a secret during her high school and college life.
“My doctors told me not to tell anyone and I also feared the stigma. So, anyone who saw me taking medication, I would tell them I had a heart condition,” she said.
“When I used to visit (my relatives) they would give me specific utensils to use and disinfect them after. When I later realized they were doing this, I stopped visiting them.” – Doreen Moraa
Dating while HIV positive has not been easy, Doreen said.
“My dating life has been kind of hard because getting a guy who truly likes me and is not pitying me is hard. For some, when I tell them I am HIV positive, they think it’s my way of rejecting them,” she said.
“Stigma is actually what challenges most people living with HIV, and especially because I use social media for my advocacy, some people tell me that I’m not HIV positive and the government is just using me to spread the HIV message. Some people also think I’ve been out here infecting ‘innocent men’ and that my family is cursed with HIV.” – Doreen Moraa
Her advice to young women living with HIV is to remember their worth.
“You are strong, you are beautiful and do not give power to a small virus that cannot talk,” she said. “Remember, you are greater than HIV, you just have to accept yourself.”
Doreen is currently an HIV/AIDS advocate and works for a customer care company.