Doreen Moracha: ‘The only way to cure HIV stigma is to talk boldly about it’

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Doreen Moracha from Kenya has been living with HIV all her life. Born with it, she has learned people give the virus too much power hence why the stigma against it still exists.

“I call HIV my tiny guest because it is a very tiny virus even biologically speaking. I realized that people were giving it too much power. You get HIV, you start asking yourself, ‘How will people see me?”, What will people say?”

Doreen found out she had HIV when she was eight years old but learning to live with it has not been without its challenges.

Narrating how she found out she recalls, “the doctor told me, ‘so I want to tell you something and it might change you a little but it’s also a good thing.’ And I tell her, ‘okay, fine, go ahead.’ 

She tells me ‘you are living with HIV and you were born with it and now you are going to start a special set of medication that are called ARVs (antiretrovirals) and you’re going to take them for the rest of your life.’

In Kenya 1.5 million are living with HIV and over 75% of adults are on antiretroviral treatment. But there is still a stigma around Africa. One area of life where someone living with HIV can suffer due to stigma is in the area of dating. 

Doreen says besides dating already being hard, coming as a person living with HIV makes the dating process even harder.

“It’s harder because first of all you have to tell this person you’re living with HIV and then you have to wait for their reaction; it’s probably positive or negative. If they come and they already know you’re living with HIV, it’s kind of complicated because some people behave like they’re doing you a favour by dating you as a person living with HIV.”

Over two-thirds of people with HIV live in Africa. Doreen is hoping to de-stigmatize HIV in Kenya by speaking out. 

“We associated death with HIV so much it amounted to stigma and now the new problem is there is nothing that can cure stigma. There is no medication that can cure stigma.”

“Stigma can only be cured by normalizing HIV, normalizing the HIV conversation, talking about it boldly, candidly and enabling people to see that people living with HIV have lives. They’re doctors, they’re nurses, they’re teachers, and they’re lawyers living with HIV.”

“They’re just normal people amongst us,” Doreen Moracha stressed. 

And she is doing her part to speak boldly about it.

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