Maureen - London, United Kingdom
I come from Zimbabwe. But now I live in London and I’m British.
When I came to the UK, I started losing weight and having fevers. Something was suspicious. I collapsed in my house and was taken to the hospital, where they discovered I had pulmonary tuberculosis. To my shock, they also told me I’m HIV-positive.
My room was facing the Thames River. One day I thought I should jump through the window and just die. I couldn’t take the shame, the stigma within my community, the stigma within my family.
Then I was introduced to an HIV support group in Enfield and the people there were all looking so good. With all the confidence that I was gaining, from meeting people living with HIV, I started to discover myself. I started speaking openly about HIV. I set myself free and discovered that within me there is the passion to work with other people living with HIV.
With the antiretroviral treatment that we take, the skin changes, especially for people of color. I said no, I have to change the way I look.
I love fashion. I mean, I’m big and there is no way I can walk into Harrod’s and get a dress of my size, so I make my own clothes. Everything I do, I do it myself. Before I leave the house, no matter how late I am, I have to run and peer into the mirror and see how I look. Only then do I step out.
I never thought I would make it till now. I received my diagnosis when I was thirty-nine, but now I’m fifty-one. People used to think that someone who was HIV-positive should be skinny and miserable and all that. No, no, no, things have changed. Now we’re looking good. We can do everything. I always tell people, the only thing I can’t do is donate blood.
If you are bitter, everything just doesn’t coordinate. I love smiling. To me that’s my medicine.