Vaughn Ripley has been HIV-positive for nearly 30 years and today he's in the best shape of his life. That's why, if millions of fans have their way, he'll appear as the first ever HIV-positive person on the cover of Men's Health magazine.. The Brunswick, Maryland, athlete is part of the Ultimate Men's Health Guy Search, and as of today, he's got over 20,000 people voting for him. Ripley, an information technology executive by day, was born a hemophiliac who "wrestled with Hepatitis C," which he recently beat after enduring a yearlong battle with medicine, and in the past has also done battle with AIDS. He says that he and his wife Kristine, "went through many hardships and tribulations to finally have two children via in vitro fertilization," but they now have a daughter (Trinity) and son (Xander) who have to try to keep up with Vaughn. A mult-sport athlete (rock climbing, weight lifting, mountain biking, running, motorcylce racing and more), we got Vaughn to tell us what winning this contest will mean — for him and for people with HIV.
Why do this?
Honestly, I am stoked about being featured on the cover. I'm always trying to get my message of inspiration out there, and I think this would be a huge boon in this area. I'm certain it will help raise awareness and also motivate people from all walks of life. Think about it, if I can stay fit and healthy despite my ailments, imagine what you can do!
What would it mean to you if you were chosen?
This photo [at left] that simply sums this answer up. Suffice it to say that literally hundreds of mothers have written me to explain the positive impact and inspiration that I'm providing for their children. This is big in my book. And, it's obviously going to raise large amounts of awareness in the HIV and hemophilia communities. Mostly, I'd like to share my message, "You can be fit and healthy despite a life threatening disease."
Do you think it would be symbolic or meaningful having an HIV-positive guy chosen by Men’s Health?
Absolutely. Think of the irony of either HIV or hemophilia on Men's Health — let alone both!
What’s your fitness routine?
I lift three or four days per week, depending on the routine, run three days per week, and bike three days per week. Both of my cardio — run and bike — sessions consist of two maintenance days about one hour each, and a "long" day, anywhere from 90 minutes to four plus hours, depending on what/if I'm training for. [At rigth, Ripley is at the summit of Mt. Ranier, a climb that raised money for AIDS charities.]
Would you be comfortable telling me how your meds impact your workouts?
I think I've been doing this so long that my meds don't really affect my workouts, at least that I can tell. However, for the 10-month period that I was battling, and beat, hepatitis C, the meds crushed me and I could barely walk, let alone workout.
How long have you been poz?
At least 28 years. We aren't sure when I contracted it.
I love that you say your kids motivate you and your wife is your best friend. Can you tell me about them?
Kristine and I have been married for 20 years and together for 27, since just after I found out about being HIV-positive. We always thought we couldn't have kids, but modern in-vitro (ICSI sperm washing) was introduced and we had two children. Trinity, our daughter is 9 and Xander, our son is 6. These three wonderful human beings are my everything. [That's the family, on a ride together, at right.]
Watch a video of Ripley's life story in the video below: