HIV Activism Taken to Historic Heights

In Global Featured, Nepal by Fiona Ip

If beating HIV wasn’t enough, Nepal’s Gopal Shrestha doubled down on his courage and inspiration by being the first HIV positive person in history to summit Mount Everest, the highest peak on earth.

Through his Step-up Campaign to bring awareness of HIV/AIDS, Shrestha first attempted the climb in 2015, but his efforts were derailed when a devastating earthquake hit near Kathmandu, killing nearly 9,000 people. Shrestha was at an Everest base camp at the time and was buried in snow by an avalanche triggered by the quake. Twenty-one people were killed that day—including some of Shrestha’s fellow teammates.

Undeterred, Shrestha healed from his injuries and set his sights on 2019 for his next attempt, aptly named “Step-Up Campaign: Second Phase”. With the support of AHF Nepal, Mogul Media and the National Association of People Living with HIV, he completed the historic feat by reaching Everest’s summit—at an elevation of 8,848 meters (29,029 feet)—on May 22, 2019.

“If 28,000 people in history have summited Everest, then why can’t we?” said Shrestha. “Many people think that HIV positive people cannot do new things due to their condition—so by climbing the highest peak in the world, I want to show we are no different from others and can achieve great things.”

Along with bringing awareness and fighting to end the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV in Nepal and globally, Shrestha also hopes to convince those living secretly with HIV to come forward, seek treatment and work together towards ending HIV.

“We were so happy to learn of Mr. Shrestha’s success on Everest,” said AHF Nepal Country Program Manager Deepak Dhungel. “This is a monumental accomplishment for anyone, and the fact that he is the first person with HIV to reach Everest’s summit proves that absolutely anything is possible as long as people know their HIV status and get on treatment as soon as possible. We hope all people living with HIV see his efforts and are inspired to take control of their health and work together towards an HIV-free world.”

A former professional football player, Shrestha was diagnosed with HIV in 1994 and has been an AHF Nepal client since April 2015.

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