“One doesn’t realise the abuse that we put the body through in our younger days.”
Pradipkumar Singh is a bodybuilder from Manipur. In 2007, he won the Mr. Manipur title, and in 2012 he clinched the Mr. South Asia title. So what makes his story different? Pradipkumar is HIV positive.
In the year 2000 he was diagnosed as HIV positive and the 7-year period between then and 2007, when he publicly made an announcement, was very tough on him.
Speaking to The Better India, he said, “One doesn’t realise the abuse that we put the body through in our younger days.”
“I was a drug addict and me being HIV positive today is the result of a shared needle during those years.”
While this could have bogged him down, it made Pradipkumar more determined than ever before.
He continues, “Having spent close to three years in bed, almost near death, things changed when my sister brought home a Champa plant. I saw how watering the plant and nurturing it made it flower so beautifully. That was the ray of hope I needed. I decided then that I would make something of my life and I am glad I did it.”
To capture an essence of the life that Pradipkumar has led since then, Delhi-based-journalist Jayanta Kalita decided to write a book titled – “I Am HIV Positive, So What?”.
When asked why he chose to tell this story, Jayanta says, “His [Pradipkumar’s] story is that of hope and sheer determination to succeed. That was what drew me into it. A man who was on his deathbed, deteriorating as the illness took over, Pradipkumar decided to fight back and reclaim his life.”
When asked why he decided to tell people he is HIV positive, Pradipkumar says, “For me coming clean about it was extremely important. I also felt that half my battle was won if I were, to be honest. I don’t see any reason why I should hide the facts.”
Adding to this, Jayanta says, “By not disclosing one is HIV positive, I feel one adds to the stigma that is attached to it. Pradipkumar’s journey has been spectacular.”
“Despite going through severe bouts of depression, he was able to pick himself up and move on.”
Pradipkumar has now been living with the virus for over a decade and has, barring some minor issues, fared well for himself. He says, “I wanted to prove to myself and many others that being HIV positive is not the end of the world.”
Today, at 45, Pradikumar is employed as a physical trainer at the department of sports and youth affairs, Manipur government.
He was made the brand ambassador for HIV/AIDS by the Manipur State AIDS Control Society and was roped in by the India chapter of a global non-profit to lead a pan-India HIV awareness campaign.
As a physical trainer, Pradipkumar meets many young boys, and his word of advice to all of them is to stay clear of using drugs.
He says, “It was a mistake of my youth that has led to this today. I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer what I did. I got lucky, I found a purpose to go on, and unfortunately many don’t.”
Here’s hoping that this story is a source of courage for others who are HIV positive.
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