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This Positive Life: An Interview With Henry Ocampo

November 9, 2010

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Let's talk about your current relationship now. You've been with your partner for 12 years.

I've been with my partner for 12 years and it's been wonderful.

How did you meet him?

Through friends. I can actually say that. I met him through friends. [Laughs.] I had some mutual friends. He came over, was just hanging out. We got introduced. We didn't actually get along in the beginning.

Those are always the best couples, the ones that kind of hate each other in the beginning.

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It was really interesting because he was more of a corporate-minded person, very three-piece suits, no jeans, no tennis shoes, kind of person. And I was the total opposite. My biggest -- my shopping was pretty much at Gap. And I was also, at the time, kind of more of an advocate, colored my hair all the time, had piercings. So we didn't exactly click in the beginning. But we just started hanging out, became friends and all of a sudden, it just kind of grew. We started talking to each other every day. And it was just one of those things where we kind of looked at each other one day in the car driving, like, "So what's going on here? We're just together all the time. How do you feel?" "I kind of like you." "I like you too." "OK." And we just started from there. One of the things that was really interesting though was none of our friends knew. We didn't even know. We hung out a lot outside of the city, pretty much in suburbia and just hanging out. So when we had -- so we didn't exactly -- none of our friends knew we were together until about maybe six months or so actually dating, when we went to a community function, to a dinner. And we came together, sat at a table. And everyone's just like, "What's going on?" [Laughs.] And it was great. We've been together ever since.

And he's negative?

He's negative.

Were you at all concerned?

Of course. It's always a concern. It's always in the back of my mind. We had discussions about it. We're always safe. Even he says, for him as well, because he didn't really have -- he's seven years older than I am, but I was out longer than him.

And how old are you?

I'm 38, almost 39. But I've been out in the community for a longer time than he has. He came out in his mid 30s. And so -- where was I going with this?

You were you saying that you guys were talking and he's a lot older than you.

But in terms of actual experience in the gay community and HIV, I had a lot more experience than he had. So when we started dating, he also sought mental health services as well. Just "How do I cope with this?" for him to get support on his own, which is really good. I really believe in mental health. Especially because I was his first relationship, serodiscordant relationship with a positive person. So for him to put himself in that position was really a lot for him. So it took some time. And we talked about it a lot. I was like, "Well, you know you can always leave whenever you want to. I can understand there's a lot to deal with. So just let me know when it's too much and you can walk away. No big deal." But 12 years later, he's still around. We're stuck. [Laughs.]

And you still live in California?

Yes.

What kind of work do you do?

"With the Asian/Pacific-Islander [API] communities because the numbers are low on a national level, but stigma and shame are really powerful still in our communities."

I'm actually a federal contractor with Office of Minority Health Resource Center and I do capacity building with HIV organizations around the country.

And how has your diagnosis impacted your work?

I think that one of the things that, especially with the Asian/Pacific-Islander [API] communities because the numbers are low on a national level, but stigma and shame are really powerful still in our communities. One of the things that's kind of been, I don't know if it's a blessing or it's been an advantage for me, that I'm comfortable with myself. I'm comfortable talking about HIV, both the clinical aspect as well as on a personal level. And just to provide who's Asian, Filipino, living, talking about HIV or living with HIV has helped others come out to seek services as well. We don't really see that a lot nationally.

No.

So I've been able to find people. People have been able to find me to talk about their status, and help them get services or come out, or being able to provide support on how they're dealing with it or even just dealing with medications or family, so it's been really -- it's nice to know that I can be there to help on that level. I have a story that's kind of interesting.

Share it.

I have a friend -- a friend of mine that lives in Vancouver contacted me, had a friend in the Philippines who seroconverted and didn't know any services whatsoever and pretty freaked out and didn't know how to deal with it. And so we connected through the Internet, where I got introduced and started talking to him about his status and how I've been living with it and how I've been able to accept it. And so I contacted a friend of mine in Bangkok who I knew did a lot of international HIV work. So we could all -- all three of us kind of connected with this person in the Philippines, trying to get him into services as well as helping him deal with his family and his self-acceptance. Afterwards, this kind of feeling like, wow, this is kind of an amazing situation. We're dealing with an international scope of access to services that wouldn't have happened if my friend in Vancouver -- if I didn't disclose to my friend in Vancouver about my status and the connections I've been able to make through my work, both here in the United States and some internationally, especially in Asia.

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