A new lease on life
Tenzin Rabgye, ThimphuSep 2 2013
The news had devastated him. Pema Dorji, 43, from Samdrup Jongkhar, was among the earliest to be diagnosed with HIV in the country in 2001. The news was hard on his family and friends as well. “My family, my friends, and not even my parents supported me,” he said.
But, he conquered his fear and ostracism, took a leap of faith and announced his status on the National Television in 2011. From then onward, Dorji– as he prefers to be known– became actively involved in Lhaksham, a non-profit organisation helping people living with HIV. “The Pema of the past and the Dorji of today are totally different. His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo had asked me my name. I had told His Majesty that my name was Pema Dorji. From then His Majesty had started calling me by my second name.”
Not long after that Dorji felt the need to get into physical exercises. He started taking part in cycling races organised by various organizations. “It was tough initially but got better with the practice,” he said.
Now, he is preparing to participate in the Tour of the Dragon Race, a one-day bicycle race from Bumthang to Thimphu. “His Majesty the King found out about my interest and gifted me a bicycle. As it is a precious gift, I keep it in my alter room.”
Dorji also said there have been positive changes in his life after he got into cycling. “My immune system got stronger.”
He said he is not participating in the race to win. He simply wants to create awareness. “Most people with HIV think that they cannot do anything after they are diagnosed. I want to show them that we can do anything.”
Pema Dorji recently underwent a full physical check up at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital as a requirement to enter the Tour of The Dragon. He passed the tests with flying colors!