December 28, 2010
A 14-year-old girl in suburban Dallas is poised to tell the world something many people would keep quiet, that she has been living with HIV since birth.
Brianna Lamar is in contention to represent Texas in a program sponsored by the Children's Miracle Network. In June, 50 children from around the country will tell Congress their stories of overcoming serious medical conditions.
"I'm living a very good, normal life with HIV," Lamar said from the Pleasant Grove home where she was raised by her grandparents. Lamar's mother died at 36 of complications of AIDS.
Lamar has known about her HIV status since age three or four, when her grandparents felt obligated to explain her frequent doctor visits. Lamar, born the year after protease inhibitors were approved for adults, has been a patient since birth at the AIDS-Related Medical Services Clinic at Children's Medical Center Dallas.
"Medically speaking, Brianna's doing fine," said Dr. Tess Barton, Lamar's physician at the clinic. "She's on medications, and she's good about taking them. She's really typical of the patients who come to the clinic every three months for a checkup."
Lamar seems impervious to the stigma associated with her disease. Even though the reception has not always been positive, Lamar routinely has shared her HIV status with her classmates. She also has realized her frankness about HIV obligates her to be ready for the inevitable questions. "I had to do some studying so I could tell them they couldn't get HIV by playing dodge ball with me," she said.
Lamar's lifelong adherence to treatment has staved off AIDS and other serious illnesses, a story she is eager to tell the world. "If I could, I wouldn't mind speaking about it in an auditorium," she said.