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Friday, March 15, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Boy Scout With Aids Reveals His Secret

AP

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - The members of Boy Scout Troop 1254 knew Henry Nicols as a leader, the guy who set a mean pace on hikes.

Now, they also know that Henry, a hemophiliac, contracted AIDS from blood transfusions.

After weeks of discussions with his parents, Joan and Hank Nicols, Henry put on his Boy Scout uniform and, with several fellow Scouts nearby, told of his condition at a news conference last week.

``That part was really easy,'' said Henry, 17, a high-school senior.

The hard part about disclosing his disease, he said, is staying ``calm, cool and collected'' while others are shedding tears over his plight.

Henry said he hopes his decision to go public will help other people with acquired immune deficiency syndrome overcome fear of discrimination. He also wants to help his community understand AIDS, saying it is ``time to demystify AIDS as a disease.''

``An intelligent and informed community should have no problems in dealing with AIDS patients as human beings, human beings who need help,'' he said.

Until his news conference March 8, Henry had never told anyone that he has AIDS. It was the best-kept secret in Cooperstown, a town of 2,400 about 70 miles southwest of Albany and home of baseball's Hall of Fame. His parents and sisters, as well as the staff at the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, kept the news to themselves.

Because of his hemophilia, Henry has had hundreds of blood

transfusions since the age of 18 months to ensure that his blood will clot in case of injury. He became exposed to the HIV virus sometime before 1984, when blood screening was made routine, his father said.

Henry was diagnosed as having developed the disease late last year.

After learning six years ago that Henry had the virus, his teen-age sisters, Jennifer and Diana, ``spent an entire month being as nice as possible to Henry,'' said Jennifer, now 21. Then doctors told them to treat him as they normally would.

``There's only so long you can be nice to Henry,'' she said.

After Henry went public with his story, 26 messages were left on the family's answering machine, Hank Nicols said. Twenty-four were from people offering encouragement. He said the others were ``strange.''

``If 96 percent of the community is supportive, we can live with the 4 percent who are weird,'' said the elder Nicols, Troops 1254's scoutmaster and an Eagle Scout himself.

Henry excels at outdoor activities - he has hiked the Adirondacks, the Grand Canyon and the Matterhorn in Switzerland - and has earned more than the 21 merit badges needed to become an Eagle Scout.

The next Eagle Scout requirement is to plan and coordinate a community-service project. Henry has chosen an AIDS education program.

There have been no signs of the turmoil that surrounded the late Ryan White, the Indiana boy who was at first ostracized in his hometown when it became known he had AIDS.

Said Jennifer: ``No one's gotten hysterical or said that Henry is a threat to the community.''

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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