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VIDEO: Woman Living with HIV Explains Why She's 'Thankful' for the Diagnosis

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Kamaria Laffrey believes she is living proof that contracting HIV can happen to anyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, she's right.  

Laffrey's story is part of the "Faces of HIV" traveling exhibit that is coming to St. Petersburg this weekend for the city's St. Pete Pride event. 

"It can happen to anybody. It's just a virus," Laffrey said. "It doesn't care what your sexual orientation is." 

She found out she was infected after she gave birth to her daughter. Routine blood tests found HIV in her daughter's blood, which meant Laffrey herself was infected.   

Her child was tested every three months for a year -- and after a year, Laffrey found out her daughter was HIV negative. 

Laffrey, now 30, was in her first year of college when she became pregnant. 

"The reason I hid my pregnancy for five months was because I wasn't planning on keeping her," Laffrey said. "I was going to try to have an abortion. I was raised in a very strong Christian household, but I was totally freaked out and didn't know what else to do." 

Although Laffrey said she knew that condoms could help prevent pregnancy and STDs, she left it up to her partner to protect them both. She blames her immaturity for not insisting that he wear a condom.  

"I wasn't educated enough to know to go get tested after I'd been exposed with a one-night stand," Laffrey said. "I was at risk and I had no idea. If it hadn't been for this child, I wouldn't know, and I could have possibly infected someone else. " 

Now, she shares her story so other people will get tested, know their status and protect themselves.  

"HIV is not a bullet that specifically has your name on it," Laffrey said. "It's something you can go your entire lifetime and it doesn't have to touch you." 

More information about preventing the spread of HIV is available from the Centers for Disease Control.  

Lottie Watts covers health and health policy for Health News Florida, now a part of WUSF Public Media. She also produces Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show.