Doreen Moraa Moracha, now 25-years old was just 13 when she learned that she was HIV positive. This was despite her parents being aware of her status five years earlier. “My parents knew about it when I was 8. But they informed me about my status when I was 13,” she opened up in an exclusive interview with TUKO. The question is how exactly did she contract a disease that would otherwise pass as deadly among most African societies at such a tender age?
Apparently, Doreen was born with the virus to an HIV discordant couple whereby she is the only child among her siblings to have been diagnosed of HIV. Owing to the stigma that surrounds HIV and the horror of getting rejected by her peers, she was asked to remain silent about her condition through her teenage years.
However, she could not remain silent forever. In 2015, Doreen resolved to go public about her status in a move aimed at offering encouragement and hope for a full life with adherence to treatment to others living with HIV. She also wanted to use her story to raise awareness about the virus and to help the fight against the stigma HIV still has in her community. This was amid protestation and censure from her father who is HIV negative. “I was doing my attachment at TSC and most of the times we would go out to learning institutions for outreaches and HIV testing and while at the field, that is when I learnt that there was need for more information about HIV out there. My boss then, also pushed me that I should come out and try make a change with my story,” she recalls.
She, however, acknowledges that this was certainly not an easy process and that disclosure took a lot of courage. “I was afraid considering the stigma associated with HIV. The first time my story came out and NTV shared it on their Facebook page and my friends were commenting how they know me and all that, I got scared and deactivated my Facebook account temporarily,” she remarks. Emboldened, Doreen has been unstoppable ever since. She has been able to share her story at countless conferences, talk shows, and the very latest – the internet. Like many in her generation, she has turned to Facebook to share her 25-year journey with HIV. In one profound Facebook post, Doreen uncovers how she, alongside her mother traveled over 500km from Kenya to the remote village of Loliondo in Arusha, Tanzania to get a cure for the virus.
At the time, the village had shot to fame with thousands of people flocking the area to get a herbal concoction purported to cure HIV/Aids, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, hypertension and any other ailment. “I wanted to get well so bad that I convinced my mum that we head to Loliondo for a cup of the herbal medicine. She agreed, but I didn’t get better and this led me to defaulting from taking my ARVs for 2 years which most definitely affected my health,” she narrates. “The journey has not been easy but I finally accepted my status and i’m using my story to end stigma related to HIV and to encourage people infected that they shouldn’t let a small virus that cant talk to control their lives,” she contends.
Her posts have since been gaining so much traction, with many social media users commending her for being bold enough to share her story. Despite her condition, her beautiful and sassy photos have still attracted potential suitors who would love to get into a relationship with her. “I use my social media mostly Facebook for advocacy and motivational purposes and yes, I do get men sliding into my inbox, some even promising to take Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) dr*gs as long as I agree to date them,” she recounts. Her greatest piece of advice to the young people is the very same one that most have likely heard time without number: abstaining or use of protection.