After winning the U.S. National Championship for the American Aerobics Association, Perez founded Ernest and Company Fitness.


AGE: 35

TESTED POZ: 1987. “For the first seven years, I told no one but my family and a few friends. I came out publicly about my HIV status at the 1994 Gay Games.”

REGIMEN: Saquinavir/AZT/3TC, Bactrim and acyclovir. “The meds slow me down, and I don’t have time to be slow right now.”

STATS: “Hovering between 16 and 112 CD4s for six years”; viral load: 20,000.

WEEKLY WORKOUT: Teaches five one-hour weight-training, strength-building and aerobics (both low-impact and step) classes a day, beginning at 5 a.m. and going strong until 8 p.m. Sunday is his day off. “Because I burn a lot of calories teaching, I try to do at least two days in the weight room just on my own.”

DIET: “I eat all day -- I have to. If I don’t, I become a total bitch and can’t teach very well. I take in a lot of protein and carbs. I don’t eat a lot of junk food -- food is fuel for me.”

SUPPLEMENTS: Multivitamin, B-complex and vitamin C

MOTIVATION: “When I’m teaching a class, I’m on stage. I love watching them laugh. If you’re in my class and not showing me your pearly whites, I’m on you.”

REWARDS: “Realizing we’re making a difference in people’s lives. Also owning my own place: When somebody gives me grief, I just ask them whose name is out front.”

ADVICE: “Find something fun. It doesn’t matter if it’s exercising at home with Richard Simmons’ ’Sweating to the Oldies.’ And don’t work out alone. You’ll have days when you’re down, but if you train with a partner or a group, you’ll catch their energy.”