Introducing our new Co-Chair Memory Sachikonye

Hello readers. I am pleased and honoured to be the co-chair of the Sophia Forum.

I was diagnosed and have been living with HIV since 2002. At the time of my diagnosis while on a short holiday from Zimbabwe, I thought I was just going to die and go home in a coffin.  My life changed when I walked into a room full of women living with HIV and all looking very happy.  This was Positively Women then. I immediately knew that I was not going to let HIV take over my life.

As I was on a visitors’ visa, I could not work.  I therefore decided to take up volunteering for Positively Women and became a PozFem member.  It was therapeutic – being able to regain my self-esteem and also giving back and reaching out to other women who would have had the same experience as myself.  Through various trainings as a volunteer, I became an experienced public speaker and still advocate for asylum seekers, especially women’s rights to services and access to treatment.

I am a mother (now a grandmother) who had left my 15-year-old son back home. I was anxiously waiting to get my residence visa in the UK sorted out.  This process took over six stressful years. Once my residency was resolved, I started working for HIV i-Base as co-ordinator for the UK Community Advisory Board (UK-CAB). UK-CAB is network of HIV treatment advocates from across the UK with over 730 members and 130 organisations. It focuses on HIV treatment and treatment-related areas. I am responsible for maintaining and developing the CAB network and coordinating meetings.

Over the years, I have gained a lot of experience in UK and international support networks and services. I am a community representative on a number of HIV studies and one of the four community reps on the HIV Clinical Reference Group (HIV CRG) for NHS England.

Before coming to the UK, I worked for 16 years as Head of Information Management Systems for the Southern African Research and Development Centre (SARDC), a regional NGO in Zimbabwe.

I still volunteer for:

  • European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG) member. I am the chair of EATG’s Development and Membership Advisory Group (DMAG).
  • Service User Representative for the Enfield and Haringey HIV Providers’ Forum
  • Committee Member for Staff/Patient Forum, North Middlesex Hospital

I look forward working with you all.

Memory Sachikonye