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This Positive Life: An Interview With Henry Ocampo

November 9, 2010

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During this time, were you still with your boyfriend?

We actually were together for another year, but it was painful. I never blamed him at all because, for me, we did what we were supposed to do. And we still don't understand how it happened. Slip up, whatever, but we used condoms. But he blamed himself a lot. Eventually, it was too hard. We're still friends. We still maintain contact, which is great. But by that time it was too difficult and we broke up. Now I'm in a relationship for 12 years. And he's negative. And we're really happy.

Could you walk us through when you finally did disclose to your family?

That was also a difficult time for me as well. I was getting some medical tests done and I had some growths in my colon. I was waiting for some tests to come back to find out if there were cancers from that. And so I was freaking out of course. For me, it was such a difficult time because I could handle one disease. I can't handle two. It's just too hard.

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That was when I actually broke down. "I just can't do this anymore. I need support." So that's when I decided to tell my family and I really have to respect them for how they reacted. I was so fearful of how they would react, where they would either be more concerned about other people's perceptions of our family. "How could I bring these diseases into our family?" Because that was pretty much their reaction. And so when I told them, I had nothing to lose at that point. So I told them a double whammy. "I have HIV and I'm also waiting for results for cancer." So it was --

Their mouths just dropped.

It just dropped. I mean how could they react? They cried, of course. But one of the things that I grew to love even more was that instead of shunning me, rejecting me or talking about how other people and perceptions of our family or "how could I bring this into our family?", they decided to take the other route. And they wanted to take care of me, which was not what I was expecting. I was kind of hoping for the best but expecting the worst. And they said, "Whatever it takes to get you better, we want to take care of you and if that means moving back home." I'm like, "No, I'm not ready for that." [Laughs.] But they were so supportive. And it's hard for -- I can't even imagine what I put them through. I mean it's one thing to hear about one disease, but to worry about one disease and a potential disease at the same time was really -- I can't even imagine what I put them through, but I really love and respect them for how they reacted.

What about your siblings?

I told them as well and they're supportive. My sister tells me she loves me all the time. We're not a very physically emotional family, touchy feely. We kind of joke around more than we say, "I love you," but she gave me a hug and told me that she loved me. And even like, there's no -- there's no issue, really. Even with my nephews and nieces that were born after I came out to them, I'm part of the family. I'm still their uncle. There's no --

There's no plastic silverware?

No, no. Nothing like that. Nothing at all. I think I'm even closer to them now than I was before because I didn't have to feel like I'm living this double life or have to hide certain things from them. So it's this big weight off my shoulders, just to be accepted, know that I'm being loved and that they'll take care of me if I need them.

That's a wonderful feeling.

It is. It's really amazing. Amazing.

So what has your health been like overall since your diagnosis?

Actually, really good, surprisingly. Considering that I started off kind of at a low point. I've been on medications since '96. I've been pretty adherent. I haven't had any opportunistic infections. I actually tell my doctor every time I visit him that I'm a boring client because I don't really have anything else, other than the HIV, to deal with. I've run a little bit more. My metabolism is slowing down a bit more as I get older. So I have nothing to complain about.

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