HIV-infected Shrestha scales Everest, conquers stigmatization

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Kathmandu: HIV-infected Gopal Shrestha climbed Mt Everest today morning, becoming the first HIV-infected person in the country to summit the highest mountain in the world.

The 56-year-old, who is a resident of Ratnachowk in Pokhara, set his feet on the summit of the 8,848-metre-tall mountain today at 8:15 am, Liaison Officer at the Everest Base Camp, Gyanendra Shrestha, confirmed National News Agency (RSS). 

The former national football player successfully climbed Everest as a part of his ‘Step-Up Campaign: Second Phase Everest Expedition’, a continuity of his previous Everest bid abandoned from the Everest Base Camp due to earthquake in 2015. 

Through the Campaign, Shrestha aimed to raise awareness in the society and country and provide quality education to children affected with HIV. 

His expedition was led by record holder mountaineer Phurba Tenzing Sherpa of Dreamers Destination Treks and Expedition Pvt Ltd while an eight-time Everest summiteer, Dakipa Sherpa, guided Shrestha to the Everest, locally known as Sagarmatha. 

He had successfully crossed Thorong La Pass (5, 417 m) in 2013 and climbed Island Peak (6,189 m) in 2014, and Virgin Peak /Khang Karpo (6, 646 m) in 2016.

With the ascent of Everest, Shrestha has led by example that HIV-infected people could also accomplish any challenges and they could perform any tasks irrespective of how difficult, risky and challenging they are.

He has become a beacon of hope for not only 31,020 HIV/AIDS-infected people  in Nepal according to the estimates of the National Centre for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC) but also to about 36.4 million people living with HIV as per World Health Organization as of 2017. 

Before leaving for expedition, he had told RSS that he wanted to convey a positive message against the discrimination and stigmatization people living with HIV like him had to put up with since he contracted the disease some 25 years ago through syringe injection. HIV is characterized as concentrated epidemic in Nepal.