Feature, International

Nepali man with HIV reaches world’s highest peak


KATHMANDU, May 22  — Opposing conservative views, a man living with HIV from Nepal, Gopal Shrestha, has successfully scaled the world’s highest peak — Mount Qomolagnma.

On Wednesday morning, 56-year-old Shrestha scaled the peak with the slogan “Step-up Campaign: Second Phase” under the leadership of Phurba Tenjing Sherpa who leads Dreamers Destination Treks and Expedition company. Shrestha was accompanied by an expedition guide Dakipa Sherpa.

“Gopal Shrestha set his foot on top of the peak at 8:00 am local time today,” Gyanendra Shrestha, a liaison officer assigned by the Nepali government told Xinhua from the base camp, adding that Gopal Shrestha might be the first HIV-infected person in the world to conquer the 8,848-meter high peak.

Initially a drug user, Shrestha has been infected by HIV/AIDS since 1994. Though the number of people living with HIV infection has reached more than 32,000 in this South Asian nation, he is one of the handful of persons to reveal his identity.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua in the past, Shrestha said that he wanted to spread the awareness about HIV/AIDS and to end discrimination against people with HIV.

“The major objective of my expedition is to spread a positive message to victims and prove to our conservative society that even HIV victims are capable of achieving the highest goals, if provided with opportunities and inclusiveness,” Shrestha, also a former national football player, told Xinhua.

Shrestha was infected with the disease after taking drugs at the age of 17 through his peer group. Later, the disease was transmitted to his wife as well whom he married at a young age, however, their only son is HIV free.

This is Shrestha’s second attempt for Qomolangma expedition after his first attempt in 2015. The devastating 7.8-magnitudes earthquake in April that year compelled him to postpone his plan after he went through severe injuries in the base camp.

But the injuries did not stop him from chasing his long-awaited dream.
While many drug users and people living with HIV prefer to stay in the comfort zone and in low profile, Shrestha climbed different mountains like Island Peak, Lobuche Peak and a virgin peak as his physical training.

“Physical exercise is a key to healthy life. I am a regular meditation and yoga practitioner as well,” Shrestha told Xinhua.
Now Shrestha and his wife are engaged in HIV and drug awareness programs and other social activities in their hometown. In an interview, Shrestha said he wanted to continue his social works by raising awareness on HIV and drugs across the country.

“I want to motivate all HIV victims to come out with the real identity. Life is very precious and beautiful. We all have to die one day so let’s live life to the fullest and freely. Let’s contribute something to the society,” Shrestha told Xinhua. – XINHUA