August 10, 2010
For the sixth summer in a row, HIV-positive children and young adults from all over the West Coast have come to Camp Kindle, a free camp in the Santa Clarita Valley, for the fun and games their HIV-negative peers take for granted.
"I like coming to this camp because there's a lot to talk about," said a 14-year-old who, at a young age, lost her mother to AIDS. "Other people don't understand and if you tell them your story, some people don't want to be around you."
About half of Camp Kindle's kids are HIV-positive, while the others are HIV-negative but in some way are affected by the disease. Thanks to effective interventions to prevent mother-to-baby HIV transmission, the camp sees fewer children infected with the virus. In 2009, Los Angeles County reported no infants born HIV-positive, although an estimated 62,000 people were living with HIV.
"As the years go on, we have less younger kids who have it, which is great, because it means more mothers are getting prenatal care," said Eva Payne, who founded the outreach as Project Kindle in 1998.
"I saw a need and decided to fill it and I didn't wait for a cause to choose me," Payne said.
"Summer camp is a magical place. When you add a commonality like HIV, it's just that bond that brings all those kids together," Payne said.