Doreen Moraa Moracha speaks on living with HIV, survival
Doreen Moraa Moracha is a vibrant 27-year-old Kenyan lady. She is an HIV Positive Advocate who was born with the virus. Her parents discovered her status when she was eight years old and she knew about her status when she was thirteen years old.
She was born to an HIV discordant couple (Mother is positive and father is negative). She is the third born and her three other siblings are negative. Doreen is open about her status not because of the pity but in her own words ‘One day, I want someone to look at me and say because of you, I did not give up.’
In 2015, Doreen Moraa Moracha went public with her status via a Facebook post and since then, she has been an HIV Positive advocate using several national, continental and global platforms to talk about HIV in all its ramifications. She has taken part in and still taking part in several international campaigns.
During the just-concluded ICASA (International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa; which held in Kigali, Rwanda from Monday, 2nd December to Saturday, 7th December 2019; Doreen Moraa Moracha granted Dolapo Aina an interview. Do read the excerpts.
What brings you to ICASA (International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa)?
I came to attend the ICASA Conference. Get more insights; add some inputs and get more in-depth knowledge about the AIDS-Free Africa theme.
What made you become an HIV Positive Advocate and why are you in the HIV advocacy part of things?
What made me become an advocate was primarily because of the stigma related to HIV that I faced as a person living with HIV. And also, I decided to use my story to create awareness; create awareness about the inherent stigma and basically just give awareness to HIV.
How long have you been an HIV Positive Advocate?
I began advocating in 2015.
To get you right, you’re an HIV Positive person. If you don’t mind answering, how did that come about?
I was born with HIV and I am 27 years old.
How has the journey being?
It has been good, bad, ugly but God is faithful.
What is your typical day like?
I don’t think I have a typical day. My place of work is a shift system and I work on a shift basis. So, basically, I don’t have a typical day because with every shift comes a different schedule.
What is a virus suppressant or virus suppression and how have you been coping with your status?
Virus suppression is basically about taking your (Anti Retro Viral) ARVs; so that the amount of virus in the body is not mutating or replicating itself in your body. All this would happen if one takes the ARVs faithfully.
What global HIV advocacy organisations are you affiliated with?
I am connected with the United Nations Women Beijing plus 25 task force. Also, I am working with World Health Organisation Africa on an initiative called ‘Tea on HIV’ which was launched recently. I am one of the six African youth profiled by WHO Africa.
I recollect you informing me that there was a period you didn’t take your drugs for two years (due to trying traditional methods) and you had a relapse. With your status, what is a typical day like pertaining to taking your drugs?
I take my drugs daily at 10 pm (and I just take one pill). And it is important to stick to your drugs as a person living with HIV because that is the only way you are going to control the HIV virus. Because as you know, the HIV virus mutates, it grows, it replicates itself in the body. And sometimes, when one fails to take his or her medication; it can end up causing drug resistance and can become drug-resistant. That is very important to stay adherent.
When I stopped taking my ARVs; I got what is called treatment fatigue. As much as people say when you take your drugs, you get used to it; it would get to a point you would not just get used to taking your drugs daily.
Considering your status what has been driving you to do the advocacy? What has been keeping you alive? What has been giving you hope?
Doing my advocacy work; what actually gives me hope is that I get to wake up and encourage people out there who are still suffering from self-stigma; who still have disclosure issues; some who are actually afraid of knowing their HIV status; some who know their HIV status but afraid of starting their medication. So, that gives me the hope that if I am encouraging someone out there to use me as an example in their daily life. It keeps me going.
Do you live your life considering your status?
I do live my life. My status does not define me.
What are your goals and ambitions?
I want to be remembered. I want to be an icon in this generation that at least I created change; I was a beacon of hope in my generation.
What is the title of the book you are currently reading?
Currently, I am not reading any book. But the previous book I read was Michelle Obama’s Becoming.