Kickin' It

Raif Derrazi responded to his HIV diagnosis by hitting the gym, hard

“I’m sorry to objectify you,” I said sheepishly to bodybuilder Raif Derrazi. For our videotaped interview, Raif was naked down to the nether regions of his sculpted abs, at my request.

“Not at all!” Raif happily responded. “There’s a time and place for everything, and this is it.”

Raif’s sunny disposition is disarming because as an aging queen who used to be All That, I was ready to resent him terribly. Alas, that is quite impossible. He is aware of his allure – he owns a mirror, after all – but he handles the trappings of hotness with humble aplomb.

Raif is also living with HIV, for seven years now, and he responded to his diagnosis in a fascinating way. He took his “not skinny, not overweight, just average” body and transformed it into a competition-level work of bodybuilding art. He did it as an act of reclaiming his body.

Watch our quick conversation below, taped at the hotel gym during the 2019 United States Conference on AIDS (USCA).

The results of Raif’s transformation have made him an Instagay hottie with a purpose. He uses his platform as a way to educate people about HIV treatment and prevention, physical fitness, and what it means to be undetectable (U=U). Meanwhile, Raif keeps raising the bar on his own personal fitness goals. In two weeks, he competes in his first professional bodybuilding competition.

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I’m embarrassed these two can run faster than I can ?? . I’m in the final two weeks before I hit the stage in Muscle Beach, Venice for my first natural, pro men’s physique bodybuilding competition @inbapnbaglobal_official I’m still not 100% certain it’ll happen…but I’m gonna keep training, dieting and practicing posing as though it is. . This prep has been tough. Life has been tough. My mental state has been rough. But I’ve shared the journey with you all here and in my daily vlogs and I’m so glad that I have/am. . Thank you so much for the support and encouragement. I wanna make y’all proud. Win or lose. Trying my very best to take moments and just enjoy the journey from here on out ?? . #HIVbodybuilder #contestprep #TeamFortitude

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Throwback to literally having the TIME OF MY LIFE standing on top of the @aidshealthcare bus, dancing to the music our DJ was spinning in the back and hyping up hundreds of thousands of people lined up along the streets. . Having ‘Living w/ HIV’ scrawled on my chest, being fully myself, on display and being loved and accepted and cheered for is a feeling I can’t describe. . Once I let go of FEAR of JUDGEMENT…FREEDOM took its place. In a way it’s easier for me to do big grand gestures that are courageous and brave. But it’s harder to sustain that bravery and fearlessness in the smaller day-to-day moments and THAT is where I believe it counts in the long run. So it’s my constant mission to push myself every day (in all the small, quiet moments), let go of that fear, be myself, allow freedom, creativity and inspiration to flow. And I SO MUCH wish that for you too. . #tbt #worldpride #freedom

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Follow Raif Derrazi on Instagram and on Twitter, and be sure to check out his engaging and informative YouTube channel.

Mark S. King is a Queerty contributor and writes the GLAAD-award-nominated blog, My Fabulous Disease.