KATHMANDU: HIV-infected Gopal Shrestha, 56, is set to scale the Mt. Everest with an aim to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS, and to set a record to be the first Nepali living with the disease to conquer the top of the world.
“In fact, I also want to give the message that a HIV-infected person is equally strong enough to reach atop the Everest,” he said.
Shrestha, who hails from Pokhara-7, will leave for the Everest on April 12 along with Guinness Record-holder mountaineer Phurba Tenjing Sherpa, who is leading the team.
“I want to conquer the world’s highest peak with the determination that people living with HIV too are physically and mentally strong enough for any difficult tasks,” Shrestha told Khabarhub.
Shrestha, who contracted the disease through syringe injection some 25 years ago, said he lost all his hopes when the doctor told him that he would survive only for a couple of months.
“Look at me, I am still active and kicking after 25 years,” he quipped.
This is Shrestha’s second attempt to climb Mt. Everest. Earlier in 2015, he made a failed attempt after an avalanche on the Everest due to the devastating earthquake. He was injured then.
This season, he is climbing the Mt. Everest as a Step-up Campaign 2. The campaign has raised Rs 3 million rupees so far while he hopes of raising the rest of the amount in the next few days. According to him, he needs Rs. 4.35 million altogether.
Shrestha, in fact, has successfully climbed Thorong La Pass (5417m) in 2013, Island Peak (6189m) in 2014, and Virgin Peak /Khang Karpo (6646m) in 2016.
Shrestha, who is one among the 31,020 HIV-infected persons in the country, said though he took a ‘bold step forward’ to expose himself as HIV-infected, he could not change the people’s mindset and behavior. “People still hesitate to come close to the HIV-infected persons.”
He said he wanted to convey a clear and loud message that people living with HIV/AIDS are never physically weak. “It’s the determination and will-power all we need,” he told Khabarhub.
In fact, initially, his family did not permit him to take the risk. “My family members treated me like a sick person, which is a wrong notion.”
According to the National Centre for AIDS and STD Control, some 31020 people are infected from the HIV virus in Nepal whereas, some 16, 428 are taking regular treatment.
He expressed the optimism that he would be able to set a record in the Nepali New Year 2076 as “New Year, New landmark and New Record”.