Imagine being a child, seeing your blood relatives reserving specific utensils like cups and plates specifically for you, and because you are too young, you do not know why! Then at the age of 13, your parents tell you that you are HIV positive.
Living with HIV in Kenya comes with many challenges including stigma, something that make many victims hide in the closet. However, that is not the case for 26-year-old Doreen Moraa, who celebrated her birthday recently. She has been living with the virus for close to three decades.
Doreen's parents are a discordant couple, who only knew that the mother is HIV +, five years after giving birth to her.
Her mum had given up and thought she would die, even when a church suggested taking custody of Doreen, her mum refused and said that if her daughter was going to die, then she better die close to her.
By the grace, Doreen was able to reach age 13 by use of anti-biotics, the age where she was to start taking ARVs.
But because she was young, she did not know the extent of living with HIV, and even when her mother was treating her with goodies whenever they visited the hospital, she thought it was pure mom's love.
Fast-forward after Doreen knew what HIV really means; she resorted to bizarre treatment methods, in the hope of freeing herself from the virus. All these frustrations saw her clash with her mum, blaming her for infecting her with HIV.
With the society still viewing HIV as a monster, most men have steered clear from Doreen even when she is virally suppressed at the moment. She explains how most potential suitors would see no need to live with Doreen, when there are HIV negative women out there.
And as Doreen explains, HIV does not kill you- stigma and opportunistic diseases does. Scientifically, the virus only weakens your body immunity, exposing you curable opportunistic diseases. Doreen explains how one such disease almost killed her. But as she says, you only need to observe a healthy balanced diet, and taking your medicines helps to avert such challenges.
Doreen is now an HIV advocate and uses her social media pages to encourage persons living with HIV. She is very vocal in advising Kenyans like her on how to overcome stigma from self as well as the society, as she says that is the main problem facing people living with HIV?
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