August 23, 2005
With locations in Massachusetts and Frederick, Md., Camp Safe Haven is a weeklong sleep-away summer camp for U.S. youths with HIV/AIDS, as well as for their siblings. The camp tries to create a positive social experience for kids who often face stigma for having HIV/AIDS, said Tony Lombardi, who is the camp's director and, along with Dave Butler, co-founder of Safe Haven Project. It is a place where campers can meet others who have HIV/AIDS outside of a medical setting and experience camp like other kids.
As Lombardi spoke, girls braided counselors' hair; a tight circle of campers played clapping games; a little boy shot hoops; and others clamored for counselors to give them piggyback rides.
The nurse's station is "always hopping," said camp coordinator Katherine Miller-Holland of Lutheran Social Services, which operates the camp with the Safe Haven Project. Nursing coordinator Tammy Pittayathikhun said staff members stay away from hospital décor and uniforms. Campers can relax on oversized pillows in the softly lit nursing cabin. Dentyne Fire gum and Kool-Aid buffer the taste of medicine, which Lombardi describes as "cherry-flavored, tongue-numbing raw sewage" that some campers take as many as 20 times a day.
On Wednesday, campers went on a scavenger hunt and watched the minor-league Frederick Keys baseball team defeat the Potomac Nationals. On Thursday morning at the pavilion, campers watched the Washington AIDS International Teens, an HIV-prevention troupe for youths.