“To those who say that I am ill, I invite them to come and train with me.” Becoming a bodybuilder in the face of HIV

By Sylvain Ferez, Éric Perera

For an HIV-positive person, practicing bodybuilding can generate certain contradictions in the face of biomedical expectations and the incentive to exercise moderately. To what extent do the dispositions associated with bodybuilding interfere with the daily management of a chronic disease? In what way do they contribute to elaborating the identity of a “tough person,” that is to say in deploying a fierce resistance to medical injunctions in the name of self-control? Based on the case study of Cédric, an HIV-positive bodybuilder, this article will attempt to grasp the manner in which bodybuilding is used to cope with the ordeal of HIV. For Cédric, this practice constitutes a means of fighting against the virus. The plan to become “Mister Universe” (world title of a bodybuilding competition) procures the feeling of escaping the illness and its effects. It allows him to regain control over his life and to reject the label of a person who is “chronically ill.” The bodybuilder’s expertise, which is founded on experiential insight that justifies a re-appropriation of knowledge, induces a redefining of the patient-doctor relationship. In this way, Cédric pushes the idea of controlling his body (through bodybuilding) to the extreme.


  • body-building
  • HIV
  • experiential knowledge
  • treatments and medical follow-up
Go to the article on Cairn-int.info