HIV patient comes back strong, wins Mr Manipur title

Kartyk Venkatraman
Indian Express
24 December 2007

*IMPHAL, DECEMBER 23:* Seven years ago, when Kh Pradipkumar Singh was diagnosed as HIV+, the state-level wrestler and powerlifter was shattered.

For the next two years, he busied himself with the flower garden at home, before hitting the local gym again. Last Sunday, five years of hard work finally paid off and the 37-year-old was crowned "Senior Mr Manipur 2007" in the 60-kg weight category, narrowly missing out on the overall crown in the contest organised by the All Manipur Bodybuilding Association.

Now that he has achieved his goal, Singh has no qualms about revealing his identity or talking about his condition. "I want my win to show people everywhere that people with HIV/AIDS can not only lead long and normal lives, but can also become medal-winning sportspersons. It wasn’t easy to reconcile with my fate, but it can’t be changed. Can it? Being HIV+ is not the end of the world. There are medicines available, and some are even being
distributed free by the Government."

Singh, who needs three doses of second line anti-retroviral drugs everyday, is now a beneficiary of the Government’s free ART rollout. For the past six years he had been buying the expensive drugs on his own along with the costly dietary supplements for bodybuilding.

"I don’t have a job. I depend entirely on my parents and relatives for my sustenance. Their trust and understanding has now paid off," he explains.

But his road to the podium wasn’t that smooth. The local Eagle Guide Gym was short on equipment. Gym secretary Romesh Mayengbam says he even stole scrap iron to add to the gym’s bars and weights. "When Singh came here to train, we were aware of his status. Some members conveyed their apprehension to us privately. However, since I’ve worked with an anti-HIV/AIDS NGO earlier, I was able to allay their fears with scientifically proven facts. After that there were no problems."

Singh says he got the virus through syringes he used as a heroin addict several years ago. "Now, I don’t use drugs. My family and friends are my greatest and only source of support." At last year’s contest, Singh had to be satisfied with a silver, having fallen ill a week before the event.

"I’m now planning to sign up for national-level competitions. Since I don’t have a trainer, I’ve mostly learnt from consulting books and instruction manuals," he says. "The virus and I are challenging each other. But I’ve decided that I’ll contest till I die. It’s all about being focused."

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