If Mark Enos ran a personal ad, it might read like this:
31, 6’2", 185 lbs., HIV+ athlete living in Boulder, Colorado. Into running, cycling, in-line skating, windsurfing, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, karate and rock climbing.
But Enos is too modest to speak of himself this way, which serves only to compound his desirability.
Seven years ago, an Enos ad would have read like a Boston remake of Midnight Cowboy. “I became a tacky hustler who was considered used goods,” he says, describing his response to the sudden freedom afforded a small-town New England boy freshly arrived in the city. “If you bought me enough drinks and you had coke, I was yours for the night. This was in the ’80s, when ’Come on me, not in me’ was considered safe sex.” Within six months after his arrival in Boston, Enos the high school athlete withered to 135 pounds. Soon thereafter, he was diagnosed HIV positive.
“I felt so dirty and deserving of HIV, like it was a judgment of God. That was rock bottom.”
Today, Enos no longer feels condemned by God. Instead, he works out with him.
“I talk to God when I’m working out,” he says, describing fitness the way a Buddhist might describe meditation: “It makes me feel strong and serene.” Though clearly aware of his inner life, Enos’ drive to train is also motivated by beauty, skin-deep or no. “It’s simply vanity. I wanted people to look at me.” His coy smile quickly spreads into a sexy grin. “I wanted to be hot again.”
Within four months, he noticed a real impact on his body. Buoyed by his newly buffed physique, Enos took up in-line skating and was jumping over cars. Soon, he was weight-lifting and reading about nutrition, until finally he went to a doctor for the first time in the two years since his test.
Enos moved to Boulder by way of Southern California, where he met Ken, a doctor of Chinese medicine. The two share a home, exercise and the occasional argument over the Western medications that Enos has recently begun to take. These include a new protease inhibitor, whose promising results have created a dilemma for Enos and some of his HIV positive co-workers at Boulder County AIDS Project: “’Oh fuck,’ we said when we read about the protease inhibitors. ’It looks like we’re going to be around for a while. I guess we’re going to have to find careers!’”
Enos sees a parallel between athletic training and living with HIV. “It’s like being a marathon runner. You just pace yourself. You slow down and stretch emotionally. I take my mind off AIDS. Take time off from working for an AIDS organization or pushing drug companies for free drugs.” He smiles at the thought of his periodic AIDS breaks. “Then I do something really fun that demands my concentration and physical energy. And I feel wonderful, like this is a body I want to live in, and live in for a long time.”