World Aids Day: The HIV+ Man from Manipur Who Became Mr World

Meet the HIV+ legend from Manipur who conquered the bodybuilding world.

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(This story was first published on 30 November, 2017 and is being republished from The Quint’s archives to mark World Aids Day.)

What’s it like to live with HIV? Pradipkumar Singh of Manipur has been asked this question almost every other day. The typical image of a person who is HIV positive is of someone who looks sick, emaciated and fragile, but Pradip just doesn’t look like that. With his ripped muscles and imposing physique it’s hard to believe that he has been carrying the virus for the last 18 years.

First Came the Drugs, Then HIV

With easy access to narcotics from across the border, Manipur is notorious for drug addiction. In the late 90s, it was fashionable to do drugs.

I started doing drugs just for fun with a few young boys from my locality. It was a cool thing to do back then. Slowly I became addicted and we were sharing syringes among friends.
Pradipkumar Singh, Mr World, Bronze Medalist (2012)     
Pradipkumar Singh Singh in his younger days with a friend. 
Pradipkumar Singh Singh in his younger days with a friend. 
(Photo: The Quint)

Pradip suspects he got the virus through reused syringes. His HIV positive status was diagnosed in Guwhati in the year 2000.

Tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought I had just a week or two to live. I knew nothing about HIV and AIDS.
Pradipkumar Singh, Mr World, Bronze Medalist (2012)   

Bed to Benchpress

The first few months were really tough for Pradip; his friends shunned him and he had lost a lot of weight. He fought pangs of depression but the doctors advised him to boost his immunity and regularly take medicines. The first step for Pradip was to gain his weight back, so he started bodybuilding.

Pradipkumar Singh won the Mr.Manipur title in 2007. 
Pradipkumar Singh won the Mr.Manipur title in 2007. 
(Photo: The Quint)
There was nobody to guide me. I kept working out, eating good diet and taking my medicines regularly. Slowly the results started showing.
Pradipkumar Singh, Mr World, Bronze Medalist (2012)  

In 2006 Pradip participated in Mr Manipur Bodybuilding competition where he won the bronze medal. Still, he was not prepared to make his status public. It was only in 2007, when he won the Mr Manipur title, that he announced his status to the world.

I wanted to be on the top when I announce to the world that I am HIV positive. That was the only way I could fight the stigma. I also didn’t want people to have pity on me.
Pradipkumar Singh, Mr World, Bronze Medalist (2012)

Pradip won the Mr South Asia title in 2012. Then came the big one – a bronze in the Mr World contest.

Pradipkumar Singh at the Mr World competition in 2012.
Pradipkumar Singh at the Mr World competition in 2012.
(Photo: The Quint)

With Great Power Comes the Responsibility

Pradip is almost a legend in Manipur now. Almost everyone knows his story but he says that the stigma still exists. But Pradip is glad that he has also been able to create the awareness.

The fact is that we cannot live a life like a normal person. We have to be extremely careful of what we eat, our schedule and have to diligently follow the medications. It’s important to continue with the Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) and not miss your dosage even for a single day.
Pradipkumar Singh, Mr World, Bronze Medalist (2012)  

Pradip has shown that it is possible to live with HIV. For 18 years he has been carrying the virus in his body. But he never forgets to reiterate.

We have to live life to the fullest, we are similar to a normal person yet different. We have to be very responsible. We may have got the virus from others but we should not pass it on to any other human being
Pradipkumar Singh, Mr World, Bronze Medalist (2012)  

Video Input: Sunzu Bachaspatimayum

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia

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