January 28, 2021

Boy Scout with AIDS lecturing on disease

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — A Boy Scout whose battle with AIDS gained him nationwide publicity may delay his entry into college this fall in order to continue lecturing on the disease.

Henry Nicols, 17, disclosed in March that he was infected with the disease. His campaign to educate people about the disease became his Eagle Scout project.

On July 27, Nicols will receive his Eagle Scout designation at ceremonies at Camp Minnetoska on Otsego Lake.

“It went well enough, so I want to continue on my own,” Nicols said.

The teen-ager has hired an agent to book speaking engagements on college campuses, and he said he may put off starting classes himself to tour as a lecturer.

Nicols’ father Hank said his son is becoming accustomed to his prominence.

“It’s been a pleasure to watch him grow,” said the elder Nicols. “In March, when we had the press conference, it was all so new it was almost overwhelming. But now he feels he’s reaching people, making a difference, and it’s been very good for him, as well as them.”

Henry Nicols is a hemophiliac who was exposed to the HIV virus when he was 11 through a contaminated transfusion. At age 17 he was diagnosed with AIDS.

He has tried to convince people that acquired immune deficiency syndrome is an illness that has no relationship to the moral activities of victims.

The disease has mainly struck intravenous drug users and homosexual males.

“I don’t think there are any guilty victims of AIDS,” he said.

Mail has poured into the Nicols’ home since Henry’s announcement. Most has been supportive, according to his father, but some letters have been from what he called the “lunatic fringe.” One writer suggested that AIDS victims be interned in special camps.

“We screen Henry’s mail,” the elder Nicols said. “We don’t think he should be subjected to the occasional nasty writer.”

Nicols was the subject of a cover story in the Parade magazine that appeared in July 7 newspapers. In it, he told of the things he’s done to come to grips with his disease.

“I consider myself very fortunate, because I have a great family, and we’re very close,” he wrote. “I have a lot of good friends. We live in a nice community. Both my parents have good jobs. Life is pretty good in general.”

He said he’s relied on the support of both family and friends. The Nicols family decided to disclose Henry’s disease publicly to prevent a backlash from people who thought he was exposed to the virus through drugs or homosexual activity.

“There’s a big burden off my back now that I don’t have to keep this secret anymore,” he told Parade. “So it’s a lot less stressful. It’s fantastic.”

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