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Local and Community News

California: Camp Is a Lifesaver for Tammy, 15, Born With HIV

June 17, 2002

Fifteen-year-old Tammy left a short but telling message in an Internet chat room -- "If it wasn't for camp, I would have committed suicide." Tammy, who did not want her last name used, was born with HIV, a virus that she can only discuss with a few close friends at the school she attends in Paramount, Calif. For the last seven summers Camp Laurel, a facility for children diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, has given Tammy a place to leave the secrecy behind. In a youthful and clearly chipper voice, Tammy explains why she left that message.

"If I had never gone to camp, I wouldn't be so positive," she says. Tammy's mother, who works for an AIDS foundation, contracted the virus through a blood transfusion she received when she was pregnant with Tammy in Mexico. She learned she was HIV-positive five years later when her husband became ill. The doctors didn't know what was wrong. "AIDS was the last thing that occurred to them. They finally tested him and he had it," said Tammy. Her father's diagnosis was followed by her mother's. When Tammy was 5, her father died and she and her mother moved to California. "Then I found out I had it," she said. In Tammy and her mother, the HIV progressed to AIDS. Now Tammy helps others understand AIDS, both at camp and by speaking at conferences with her mother.

Tammy is one of more than 11,000 children who will experience summer camp this summer thanks to the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, which was established in 1954. This year, the McCormick Tribune Foundation will match the first $1.2 million in contributions at 50 cents on the dollar. For more information, telephone 213-237-5771.

Back to other CDC news for June 17, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Los Angeles Times
06.12.02; Kwala Mandel

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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