God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

Judge not

Stefan Hippler

Judge not – The pointless categories of guilt and innocence

It’s one of those lectures you don’t forget in a hurry. Prof. Marc Cotton, a steering committee member of HOPE Cape Town, delivers it to the staff of City Park Hospital in Cape Town. It is 7am and his listeners are still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. He is lecturing on general socio-medical issues related to HIV/Aids. The stream of dense facts and figures nearly drowns out the peculiar story of 14 children. As an aside, Prof. Cotton reports that all of these 14 young patients are HIV-positive, but their parents are HIV-negative. The children come from different areas, but they have one thing in common: they were all hospitalised for lengthy treatment of various illnesses. Prof Cotton doesn’t need to offer a conclusion; the inference is obvious.
This incident contradicts the general notion that infection is always due to sexual contact – a prejudice that is also widespread in church circles. When we meet an infected person, all of us instinctively wonder: How did it happen? Our terminology betrays us. We prefix our references to affected children with the word “innocent”. That makes it so much easier to be compassionate. But with adults there is always the question of guilt. We might not say it out loud, but it’s in our thoughts.

It cannot be disputed that HIV is chiefly transmitted through sexual activity. But there are other possible causes of contagion, such as blood transfusions or transmission during birth. The case of these 14 children should counsel us to be more vigilant in our assumptions and to curb our imagination.

A biblical verse might help us: “Judge not, lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Our perceptions should not be clouded by questions about how, where and why somebody was infected. We should be guided only by seeing the infected person as our brother or sister, to suffer with them in compassion. In our speculations about the origins of contagion we nurture the seeds of stigmatization. When Jesus, in Matthews Gospel, speaks about the final judgment, he places among the saved those who visited the poor and captive, who clothed the naked and fed the hungry. Christ doesn’t talk about the events that led these people to their pitiable circumstances. He judges nobody. Nor should we. All people with HIV deserve our unqualified support, like these 14 children Prof Cotton told us about in his lecture.

Translation  from the book:
Gott – Aids – Afrika
Hardcover: 207 pages  –  Publisher: Kiepenheuer & Witsch GmbH (August 31, 2007)
Language: German  –  ISBN-10: 3462039253  –  ISBN-13: 978-3462039252
Gott – Aids – Afrika
Paperback  – Bastei – Luebbe  –
Language: German  –  ISBN-10: 3404606159  –  ISBN-13: 978-3404606153

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. Venita says:

    First of all father, i don’t mean to be condescending, but what is HOPE doing on a grass root level to educate people?

    Secondly, are you proposing that these 14 children are the victims of circumstance due to incompetent administrations by the medical staff at this unnamed hospital (s) or some other dubious method of infection?

    Thirdly, What steps are taken in helping these children live a reasonably normal life?

    Has consideration being given to the vile opportunistic viruses, diseases and cancers which will run rampant through their bodies?

    Living in the West of Pretoria, we have only ONE Aids Hospice (set up by Fr. Kieran Creagh) in a township 10km from my place. My son Sheldon is doing his practicals at this facility and it is rather a sad for him to see young and old (terminally ill) having to go through what they do. eg a 12yr old girl whose body is ravaged by full blown Aids and Cancers.

    As Fr. knows these facilities survive on the public for survival and it is sad to know that Catholics from and around Pretoria are oblivious of their existence.

    I may not agree with the Aids situation (but that is just my view), and have put aside my prejudice and is now involved in doing the best I can (fundraising) to help these unfortunate people. Cause I feel tomorrow anything could happens to me or one of my family members and we fin d ourselves in their unfortunate situation. (i.e. a blood transfusion etc).

    • thanks Venita and sorry for late reply – i am overseas in the moment. Most of our staff is working at grass root level in the townships, working in township clinics, educating and assisting the medical or nursing staff. And yes, the 14 kids seem to be victims of circumstances, be it at a hospital or at home. The real reason – I am not sure about it. But I think its food for thoughts.
      HOPE CPT assists families with counseling, advice, practical help to further a healthy family life – we are aware of all side effects and opportunistic viruses but in most cases very optimistic that with proper treatment a normal life can be achieved.
      Well, last but not least is to mention that obviously the topic is a difficult one for the Catholic church as long as we stick to paradigms which might have changed during the times without being noticed by those in charge of our institution.
      And yes, you are right – nobody is 100% immune when it comes to the virus – be it blood transfusion or anything else..
      Thanks for your thoughts
      Kind regards
      Fr stefan

HIV, AIDS and HOPE – thoughts of a Catholic priest

Being a Roman - Catholic priest and working in the fields of HIV and AIDS in Africa is often a challenge. Living in Africa has also its challenges. On the other hand I feel very much blessed having all the three. So you will find stories and reflections about my work, about the church, South Africa and Africa and essential information and developments in the field of HIV and AIDS. And in between personal stories and thoughts. You are most welcome to leave a comment or to get in touch with me - blogs - "thinking loud" so to speak is a ways of communication and exchange of ideas.

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