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Long-term Survivors

This Strong Man Is a Survivor

pradipkumar singh

How one poz man rose above adversity and stigma to become a world champion athlete and inspiration.  

 

Pradipkumar Singh is no stranger to obstacles—or overcoming them. The 46-year-old professional body-builder was born in a small village near Imphal, the capital of Indian state, Manipur. In his teens, like many other youths in his area, Pradipkuma succumbed to substance abuse, which led to unsafe practices regarding his health. In 2000, he learned he was HIV-positive, and says that at first, things were very hard.

“I became physically very weak. It was more of a psychological attack on me. The worst was seeing my closest friends drifting away from me. People would ridicule and mock me, passersby would address me as ‘that HIV man’,” he told Indian news source IANS, and said even hospital staff and doctors would mistreat him.

“They made me feel like an untouchable. At Manipur State Government Hospital, I was allotted a corner bed with no mattress or bed sheet. No physician or paramedic would visit me throughout the day. There was even a time when I thought of ending my life, but it was my family’s unconditional love that kept me alive. Today, if I am here, it’s only because of my family,” Pradipkumar said.

Fortunately, had a strong supporter and advocate in his sister-in-law, Bhanu Devi, who stood firmly by his side.

“[At] that time, not many people were aware of HIV. It was sad to see even some relatives keeping distance from us. But the only aim for us at that time was to save Pradip at any cost. We tried to divert his attention to something that made him laugh or happy,” she said.

It was then that Pradipkumar decided to pursue a career in bodybuilding. After having confined himself at home for three years, he decided he wanted to “show the world what an HIV- positive person can do in life.” And that he has. Pradipkumar has gone on to win the Mr. Manipur, Mr. India, and Mr. South Asia titles — as well as a bronze medal in the Mr. World contest.

These days, Pradipkumar no longer participates in professional competitions, but works as a physical trainer at the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs of the Manipur government and plans to open an academy for bodybuilding. He has also become a staunch activist intent on breaking down stigma associated with the condition.

“Why should I be ashamed of being HIV-positive?” he asks. “HIV does not kill people; it’s society that kills HIV-positive people. My fight is not just with the virus but also with the mindset of people.”

 

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Desirée Guerrero

Editor