Ask Kamaria Laffrey who she is, and she'll tell you that not only is she a mom and an advocate, she's also Black Girl Magic personified with a healthy sprinkling of chronic optimism.

That chronic optimism is Kamaria's fuel for helping others, and she believes that when she represents the HIV community, she is lifting Black women living with HIV so that their presence is equal parts visible and powerful.

“The liberation of Black women everywhere, in my opinion, rides on not needing permission to live in our excellence and to know that part of the discussion to support the prevention of HIV and living with HIV is armed with tools, access and resources towards what we identify as priority in our sexual health to reduce HIV transmissions. Black women everywhere can unapologetically desire, choose and operate in their bodies beyond our resiliency being a default. We are often ignored but then asked to be the solution.”

Jahlove SERRANO

“I see us changing the narrative

because we are the prototype and the conversations to end HIV needs to center on that.”

Jahlove SERRANO

Since her HIV diagnosis in 2003, Kamaria's life has changed in many ways, but that combination of Black Girl Magic and chronic optimism has also changed the lives of many others along the way through her work and advocacy.

Kamaria thrives when it comes to empowering others. She's continually helping to shift the residue of societal and self-induced stigma of HIV in various ways. On the local public front, she is currently serving on the FL Dept. of Health Community HIV Advisory Group and the West Central FL Ryan White Care Council. On a national effort, she serves as Program Director for HIV policy reform with The SERO Project.

On the personal front, Kamaria is the founder of the community-based organization emPOWERed Legacies, which aims to provide education, resources, and support to anyone in need—whether within the HIV/AIDS community or beyond.

Jahlove SERRANO

There is a path to liberation for everyone,

whether you're dealing with a diagnosis, inherited family trauma, societal oppression, or discrimination because of your gender or sexual identity.

“ emPOWERed Legacies is about connecting people to people as resources, collaborators or support and embracing the vision and hope of what life can be, redefining how individuals embrace their healing, give inspiration and ultimately live victoriously in their own truth.”

Three Questions With Kamaria:

1
What was your reaction when you were first diagnosed with HIV? And, how do you feel now?
When I was first diagnosed I realized I was becoming a stereotype according to society. Black, no degree, single mother, living with parents — living with HIV. I knew then that I had to stop the cycle and redirect my path. I just had no idea.

Now, 18 years later I know better. I feel more secure in my identity as a Black woman because I have found a community that loves and supports me in spite of societal stereotypes, in spite of my flaws. They have taught me to celebrate my skills and embrace my legacy as a subject matter expert.
2
How do you define being fearless and how do you bring that attitude into your everyday life?
Fearlessness is knowing disappointments, criticisms, and doubt are a part of the path to healing, victory, and success. In my everyday life, I strive to take inventory of what tools I'm bringing into my day that will lead to the liberation of Black women from the stigma of HIV.
3
How does your community make you stronger?
My community makes me stronger by reminding me to come outside of myself, my introverted personality, and my internalized stigma to join forces and stand up for change.

My community makes me stronger because the unspoken understanding of our collective pain transforms into this unconditional love that elevates our lived experiences beyond stigma and shame.

My community is the very breath that fuels me to keep fighting and pushing past trauma so the next generation has it easier and one day there won't be a need to fight.
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