Maureen, London

My name is Maureen. I come from Zimbabwe. But now I live in London and I’m British.

I used to take myself as the perfect one, but when I came to the UK, I started losing weight. I started having some fevers and something was suspicious. I collapsed in the house and I was taken to hospital and they discovered I had pulmonary TB. But, to my shock, they 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 can’t take the shame, the stigma within my community, the stigma within my family. Then I was introduced to a support group in Enfield and they were looking so good.

With all the confidence that I was gaining whenever I meet people, I started discovering myself. I started speaking openly about HIV and I set myself free and I discovered that within me there is the passion to work with people living with HIV. With the ARVs that we take, especially people of color, the skin changes. I said no, I have to change the way I look.

I love fashion. I mean, my size, 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 come out, no matter how late I am, I have to run and peer through the mirror and see how I look, then I come out.

I never thought I would make it up till now. I had my diagnosis when I was 39, but now I’m 51. People used to think someone was HIV-positive should be skinny and all that, and miserable, you know. No, no, no, things have changed. Now we’re looking good. We can do everything. The only thing 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.

About Through Positive Eyes

Through Positive Eyes [] tells the story of HIV/AIDS at the end of the third decade of the epidemic, when potent antiretroviral medication has been devised, but when treatment access is far from universal. Through Positive Eyes is an attempt to address key themes of the AIDS epidemic: widespread stigma, extreme social inequality, and limited access to lifesaving medication. The project is based on the belief that challenging stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS is the most effective method for combating the epidemic—and that art is a powerful way to do this. HIV-positive people take part in this unique initiative, creating powerful personal photo essays. From these images, we create local and international advocacy materials including exhibitions, short films, and website. Read more about Through Positive Eyes at

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