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#37 of Our Most Amazing HIV-Positive People of 2016: Lepena Reid

Lepena Reid

“[Lepena Reid] has a way of floating into a room, carried by her positive energy and bright light of hope," says Kamaria Laffrey, who founded emPOWERed Legacies, which provides health education and referrals to support services. “There's never a moment around her where she doesn't intentionally and genuinely offer peace, encouragement, enthusiasm, and support. As a woman living with HIV I have found my friendship — no, sisterhood — with her invaluable. She has lifted me at times I didn't even know I needed lifting. Lepena is truly a gem in this world.”

A certified health educator for the State of Florida, Reid is also a member of the Florida Community Health Worker Coalition, where she serves as co-chair of the Advisory Board. Reid says working at the state capital has given her an incredible opportunity to network with organizations expanding health care access throughout the state. But, she complains, she’s frustrated how often she’ll overhear people say they don’t hear much about HIV anymore. “There is still lots of ignorance” about HIV, Reid explains. “The public needs educational information and awareness that health educators can provide.”

In combatting that ignorance, Reid says the greatest struggle is “getting people to understand the human in the virus. When I am sharing information about the Human Immunodeficiency Virus,” she adds, “I like to spell out all 26 letters; letting them get to the cellular core of the diagnosis. Humans with the virus matter! And people who test positive with HIV are human.”

A long-term survivor who has been positive for more than 28 years, Reid says she’s frequently been told, “You do not look like you could be HIV positive.” That is, Reid says, when her conversations about drug adherence begin. She remains thankful for her health, but she acknowledges it still takes faith and willpower to push herself to retain a heathy lifestyle on a daily basis.

“She is a beautiful human being, inside and out,” says Grace Terry, host of Tampa Bay’s Angel Café says of Reid, “Her passion for HIV/AIDS education/prevention/advocacy sometimes is a lonely mission, but she perseveres tirelessly. Her selfless dedication to making a positive difference for her own immediate family, her community, and for the entire human family is inspiring and motivating. I consider myself extremely blessed to know her.”

Reid says she hopes to expand her outreach as a health and movement coach, supporting women in discovering the importance of self-care, staying physically active, and managing their total health outcomes.

She is a proud member of organizations that are “filled with strong, empowering, and fierce women” like Positive Women Network, Common Threads, and Sister Love’s 2020 Leading Women’s Society (a component of the Positive Women’s Leadership Project, which provides resources, training, education, mentoring, and support to increase the leadership capacity of HIV-positive women).  Reid is dedicated to expanding her horizons with the mission of bringing women into leadership positions, changing policy around HIV issues, obtaining economic stability, and nurturing and unifying other young women; with the goal of getting to zero and ending the virus.

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