The Inspirational story of Indian AIDS Survivor Neil Biswas

In Cover Story, Editor's Choice, Society

Profile in Courage section of Socialist Factor this January issue is that of a tenacious AIDS survivor called Neil Biswas. Don’t miss out on the inspiring story of a tenacious fighter who has grown the horns of a ramming bull in his over a decade long tryst with the stigmatized virus. Social and political response to the infection worldwide had been appalling.

Updated January 17, 2020 | 07:33 IST | Neil Biswas

Neil Biswas, an alumnus of St. Stephen’s College (1979) and an Indian Army Commando instructor (1983),, has proven that HIV doesn’t make people dangerous to know.You can shake their hands and give them a hug. For the past decade or so, Neil had been a resident of old city in Lucknow.

In 2005, Neil tested positive and in March 2006 he was told that he had barely six months to live. Having tested positive, he had to double lock his doors, due to social stigma. Neil is a gay and has lived most of his life in the closet.

The first step he took was to start taking the HIV medication no matter how toxic it allegedly was. The second thing he consciously did was start eating as if his life depended upon it.

Six months later, the virus from 14 lakh-plus copies/ml was down to what was referred to as Undetectable. This is in today’s medical fraternity the equivalent of “Can’t Pass It On.”

Having been blessed with a set of peachy genes, he directed his attention to physical health and fitness. In 2017 at the age of 59, he ran India’s most intricate Obstacle Course, the Devil’s Circuit–Fifteen Army styled obstacles over a distance of 5 km. The most difficult obstacle was the 14 ft warped wall from American Ninja fame. At 59, Neil became the oldest person to complete the full course. The result told him he was peaking in his fitness plan.

At the age of 61, Neil Biswas is training to become the Fastest Asian over 100 meters by the year 2022 at the Asian Masters Championship. In 1979, he had run the event at Delhi University and became the “Find of the Year.”

For that adventure, Neil is raising funds to accomplish the ambitious adventure of running 100 meters in over-60 category. He needs our support. Would you bet on this Horse who is looking at growing the Horns of a Ramming Bull?

Here is Neil’s story in his own golden words..

When life gives you a second chance the only way forward is by Bull Rushing it with all the Horns you have.In 2005 I tested HIV positive, in March 2006 I was told I had 6 months to live. The first step I took was to start taking the HIV medication no matter how toxic it allegedly was. The second thing I consciously did was start eating as if my life depended upon it. Six months later the virus from 14 lakh plus copies/ml was down to what is referred to as Undetectable. This is in today’s medical fraternity the equivalent of “Can’t Pass It On”.

And we thought it was a killer disease. Six months is all it takes to reverse a so-called death sentence with medicine.

It is now a FACT that the virus cannot be transferred to a partner even in the event of No Protection whatsoever (Yes! without a Condom) while under medication.

This is a significant breakthrough in the race against HIV containment. Currently touted as the U=U campaign (Undetectable=Untransmittable) and Can’t Pass It On. The aim is to help individuals coerce their fears and make “HIV Testing” a part of their regular Health Plan. The necessity for this is that the virus can sit inside an individual for as long as 10 years without the affected person having any adverse effect. A good diet and healthy lifestyle prevent the virus to grow inside the body. Without even being aware the individual passes on the virus to others. Six monthly testings will arrest this from happening. Individuals identified as High-Risk Groups must therefore enthusiastically give way to 6 monthly testings and stop the spread of the virus.

Today having lived with the virus for close to 13 years it is my mission to get this message out to bring a HALT to this highly Stigmatized virus.

I am gay and have lived most of my life in the Closet. Testing HIV positive, I double-locked my doors, stigma!

Fortunately or unfortunately the closet was too small as reflected by the fact that every time my employers found out my sexual orientation I had to move on. My parents picked up the tab each time I was knocked down financially.

But, returning to the Bull Horns of life. Having been blessed with a set of peachy genes I directed my attention to physical health and fitness. After a year on medication, I returned to a Stadium close to home. In less than ten days of doing the most fundamental bodyweight exercises, I found a small bump in my abdomen. The virus had so badly eaten into my system that my abdominal muscles could not cope with the simple-sit up routine. Despair ruled me for a few months as being HIV positive the consensus was that finding medical help was going to be thorny. Help came from the Head of Surgery, King George Medical College, Lucknow. He offered to do a Hernia operation the day after Diwali (high casualty day) at the Trauma Center (the operation theater needed to be super sterilized post my operation and hence the need to do it post Diwali night in the early morning). 24 hours after the operation I was pacing the Trauma Center corridors in nothing but a pair of shorts holding up a saline drip and my urine discharge bag, the Head of Surgery released me from hospital care the following day noting my recovery.

In May 2008, six months after the operation, I entered a gym for the first time in my life having gained over 15 kgs. I remember the first ten days as my body ached and pained from simply walking 30 minutes on the treadmills accompanied with 30 minutes of bodyweight exercises. Abdominal exercises were not to be undertaken for another six months.

Having been an avid reader of Men’s Health from the time it entered the Indian market, I had my fundamentals clear. In 1988, training under an American Aerobics Instructor at YMCA Delhi exposed me to Heart Rate Training (HRT) I based my recovery fitness plan on HRT. From simple walking to brisk walking I slowly rebuilt my leg muscles. After eight months my brisk walking was replaced with slow running. In 2011 acquiring my first Fitness Tracker I was able to leave the gym and take my running outdoors. The wind caught my wings.

In 2017 I ran India’s most intricate Obstacle Course the Devils Circuit. Fifteen Army styled obstacles over a distance of 5 km. The most difficult obstacle was the 14 ft warped wall from American Ninja fame. Having studied the technical aspect of clearing the wall earlier, it still threw me off twice before I was able to conquer it. I completed the course finishing it in 54 minutes. At 59 years I became the oldest person to complete the full course. I was so elated with the results I did not make a serious attempt to get the Organizers to Certify the fact. The result told me I was peaking, in my fitness plan, I knew I could now aim at higher mountains to scale.

And so here we are at the start of the next adventure; ambitious as a friend flagged it. I am training to become the Fastest Asian over 100 meters (by the year 2022) at the Asian Masters Championship. In 1979 I ran the event at Delhi University and became the “Find of the Year”. While training to become an Army Officer in 1981 out of 150 other officers, I topped the class in Physical Fitness. In 1985 I became an Indian Army Commando Instructor, all courtesy those peachy genes inherited from my loving parents who now watch over me from the universe above.

For that Betting Individual, would you BET on this Horse who is looking at growing the Horns of a Ramming Bull?

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