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I Was Born Smiling

I was born smiling, my mother says.

All of my life I’ve been complimented on my smile. I don’t have the whitest or straightest teeth. I’ve never modeled and I’m not that photogenic.

But I am light and I don’t look like what I’ve been through.

From birth, I’ve had to use my light to fight to be in this world, cry for my need to breathe, my need for nourishment, and have dignity (diaper changes were immediate when I was a baby)!

Living with HIV as a black woman and mother

As a Black woman. As a daughter, as a mother, as a vessel of pleasure, as a woman living with HIV; I have prioritized my standards for what I need to thrive. I have taken up space. I have used my voice and I have been visible in trying to be a face to challenge stigma.

Recognizing stigma

Embracing those identities of myself took a long time. It took my HIV diagnosis in 2003 for me to really see myself. I saw myself through the history of the epidemic, the residue of stigma, the lives and talents lost to complications of AIDS and I saw that all those lives matter in a way that won’t let me sit back and not make this world better than how I found it.

A safe place for those living with HIV

I want others whether newly diagnosed or veiled in the shadows of historic stigma to look up and know if they reach out, a safe and brave space can be theirs to rest in so that they no longer have to deny themselves a life of light, dignity, authenticity, and power. I strongly believe in living beyond your diagnosis; embracing healing, giving inspiration and living victoriously for a redefined legacy that’s all yours.

This is why I introduce myself as Kamaria Laffrey, a woman living with HIV and born with chronic optimism and Black Girl Magic *cue smile*.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • caseyh moderator
    2 weeks ago

    Hi Kamaria! Thank you so much for taking the time to share part of your journey with our community. I especially loved the phrase, “I am light”. That just hit me while reading, and helped me really get a glimpse of the optimism and strength you have. This was such a great read, and I feel energized by your desire to provide a safe space for others and break down barriers.

    I’m so glad you are here to share your message of taking up space, using your voice, and challenging stigma. I know so many will resonate with and be inspired by that. Thank you! I hope to be able to hear more from you in the future!

    Wishing you a nice weekend ahead! -Casey, Team

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