Resilient. Courageous. Brave. These are words one may easily use to describe Doreen Moraa, who has lived with the HIV virus for 26 years.
Her parents thought she would not live to celebrate her 12th birthday.
She only started using ARVs from age 13 when she was told she is living with the virus.
As a child, Moraa saw her relatives reserve cups and plates for her. She was too young to understand why.
Moraa has turned her life from a pity party to that of a campaigner who speaks against stigma surrounding HIV. She says the virus does not kill, otherwise, she would have been dead almost over two decades ago.
Moraa’s parents are a discordant couple - one partner is HIV-infected and the other is not. Her mother is living with the virus, something she found out five years after giving birth to Moraa.
She says her mother thought she would die. A local church had offered to take her in, but her mother would have none of it.
“If Moraa will die, let her die close to me,” her mother said.
Moraa knew little about living with HIV, call it mother’s protective nature over her children.
She would be treated to goodies any time she was at the doctor’s office. To her, it was just another day in the hospital.
Perhaps it was this culture that prepared Moraa for a future many have been afraid to speak about.
But when reality hit Moraa, she admits it was hard to process.
She resorted to bizarre treatments in the hope of freeing herself from the virus. The frustrations strained her relationship with her mother. At some point, she blamed her for her poor health.
Has the virus affected her love life and relationships? No doubt.
Even though she is virally suppressed at the moment, most men will not be in a relationship with her.
“Most potential suitors see no need to live with me when there are HIV negative women out there,” Moraa discloses.
“HIV does not kill you. Stigma and opportunistic diseases do.”
Scientifically, the virus only weakens your immunity, exposing you to disease.
So what’s the secret to a long happy life? You only need to observe a healthy balanced diet, and take your medication as ordered.
On International Women’s Day and other days, Moraa uses her social media pages to encourage persons living with HIV. She is vocal in advising Kenyans like her on how to overcome stigma from self as well as society.
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