God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

IAS conference 2017

Fragments of thoughts and impressions

It is my first IAS conference I have attended and compared with the World Aids conference it is a smaller crowd: round about 6000 people from all over the world coming in Paris together to discuss developments in the fields of HIV and Aids.

The first impression is that the conference is much more academic and discerning – it feels that most talks and presentations are indeed on a much higher academic level then at local Aids Conferences or the big world conference.

I am staying at a hotel outside Paris in Nanterre a commune in the Hauts-de-Seine department, the western suburbs of Paris. It is located some 11 km north-west of the centre of Paris. It feels strange – and from the beginning I can feel people have to live in a way which does not support human interaction – it feels cold, just doing the job of housing people without consideration on the human desire to live in a nice and friendly environment. It’s a sort of shock for somebody living in South Africa – it is strange but it feels like as soul-less place. The hotel is situated on top of a commuter train tunnel and station – every now and then one can feel the coming and going of a train while laying in bed.
So I guess all is there to sustain living and working, there are high rising buildings and all kind of services, but the thought I take with is that I can understand such suburbs create problems and even violence.

The mix of people here is amazing – mostly and certainly from the African region of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco – it feels non-European in a European way – figure it out what it means.

And travelling to the conference centre – using the train and the metro – being part of a huge crowd in the morning and evening entering and exiting the dark alleys of the underground world – being part of the endless movements of people pushing their way through the crowd to reach their daily destiny – it is breath-taking – but not in the usual sense of the word. I definitely recall all my blessings living with some space and lots of day light in South Africa.

The conference itself is for a non scientific person sometimes difficult to follow – but I guess it is not about the exact details of every molecule one has to understand, the sheer feeling of understanding the principle – the idea behind all the details – the sometimes keen thoughts and trials and errors are a fascinating mental adventure – it stimulates my brain and forces me to read and study and “google”  – I have to admit that is a great experience to be beamed for a while into an environment really challenging you on knowledge and understanding.
But I believe that people running organisations must have at least a grasp about the background work done and the driving forces behind new developments before they reach the grass-root scene to be put into practice. Fruitful communication, bridging the gap between science and grass-root as HOPE Cape Town is trying to achieve on a daily base means for those in charge constant learning and communication with all spheres of their work environment.

Last but not least it was great meeting people from other countries and engaging in discussions – learning from each other and about each other and feeling the compassion of trying to rid the world of a viral onslaught. And yes, there is of course also lots of business – lots of calculation, but even there, you very often sense that those being employed in the big pharmaceutical companies understand that there is humanity needed in business. The connectivity of the global village, the threat that a virus can easily come and bite those far away helped indeed to change some of the attitudes which governed such entities a decade ago. Surely there is still lots to optimize and clarify – a balance must be put into place between commerce and humanity but I guess the battles of treatment have brought some clarity and movement into the field. Well, a watchful eye seems to be always necessary when it comes to that topic.

I will leave Paris tomorrow with lots of new understanding about the work done in the laboratories of this world. I leave proud knowing that our very board member of HOPE Cape Town, Prof Mark Cotton co-chaired the CHER study which produced one of the most published results of the conference: the child for 9 years in remission after being treated as a baby. I leave motivated knowing how many people dedicated their lives and career to fight back a pandemic which brought so much death and sorrow onto human mankind. It simply feels great to be part of a movement which has the goal to end a pandemic and give people a chance to live life and sexuality without fear. To live and to love to the utmost in their lifetime.

The only question I was wondering – how many other priests or clergy have been to this conference – not that it really matters but it would be nice to know that more of my fellow brothers are engaged on this level in a matter of live and death for millions in this world.

 

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

HOPE Cape Town USA

Since last year, HOPE Cape Town in South Africa has a sister organisation in the USA, registered and recognized as a non-profit entity. Last Saturday the board of HOPE Cape Town USA finalized the mission and vision statement which reads as follows:

 

HOPE Cape Town USA

Background

HCT USA understands that in a rapidly globalizing world a life-threatening health pandemic such as HIV/AIDS has no borders and can easily spread from one continent to another; and understands that root causes of vulnerability and marginalization are similar throughout the world, and connects people in both USA and South Africa. It also understands the danger of resistance to HIV/AIDS as well as related conditions such as tuberculosis, as experienced in southern Africa.

As a result, HCT USA believes there is tremendous value in linking with Hope Cape Town in South Africa as well as other national and international civil society organizations to learn and exchange best practice, expertise and create synergies in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment among marginalized segments of populations.

Also, HCT USA recognizes that behaviour change reducing risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS is in great part a result of change in social norms in which education plays a large role. Focusing on changing social norms and education will reduce the effects of misinformation and stigma and help create a more accepting environment, and result in an increase demand and supply for, as well as access to and use of available treatment among the most vulnerable and marginalized.

Vision

HOPE Cape Town USA strives to improve the quality of life of vulnerable and marginalized children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS, and related illnesses, and help them to reach their own full potential.

Mission

HOPE Cape Town USA’s (HCT USA) mission is to assist people living with HIV, AIDS and related illnesses in the USA and South Africa.

HCT USA’s aim is to support the ongoing work of HOPE Cape Town in South Africa, reduce the spread of HIV among vulnerable and marginalized children and youth in USA and support those living with HIV.

This mission is realised by the following means

  • Advocate, fundraise and support HOPE Cape Town programs in South Africa
  • Build a body of data to understand needs, challenges and interconnections of children,
    youth and families living with HIV, AIDS or related illnesses in South Africa and USA
  • support vulnerable and marginalized children, youth and families in the USA, beginning in the Dallas/Fort Worth (Tx) area
  • Collaborate with other NGO’s in the fields to create synergies and expertise and
    interconnect globally with the aim to learn, share and optimize programs
  • Disseminate correct information, reduce misconceptions about the pandemic and so
    eliminate discrimination and create access to appropriate info on the syndrome, prevention and treatment options.
  • Change behaviour to reduce risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS by focusing on changing social
    norms and education, and reduce the effects of misinformation and stigma and help create a more accepting environment
  • Increase demand and supply for, as well as access to and use of available treatment among
    the most vulnerable and marginalized.

Filed under: Africa, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, Networking, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , ,

Thoughts of an unapologetic whitey on #SaveSouthAfrica

I am reading the opinion piece “Here’s why white people cannot demand solidarity” – posted somewhere on social media under the headline “who’s rally call and why is it anyhow?”. On the morning of Friday, 7th of April 2017, the day most serious South Africans try to rescue their country from greed, corruption, downgrading and incompetent politics while MK “Speer of the Nation” soldiers still try to play war in front of Luthuli House my thoughts go back where I am coming from and what I have learned so far living 20 years in South Africa:

First and foremost: I don’t want and I will not apologize for being born white and in Europe – nobody chooses his or her place of birth – and whatever system is in place is taken in the beginning, till reflection sets in, as a normal environment.
I grew up in the small little town of Bitburg – those knowing the history of the city know that Bitburg harbored one of the biggest US American airbases next to Ramstein. So for me – in my childhood I was aware that people have different skin colors – which not really mattered – but we knew: black people are rather richer people as the US Dollar was strong at that time.
When I entered adolescence – news from South Africa were made more and more available and I learned about a small tiny Archbishop in Cape Town and the call for a boycott of South African goods. Empathy for the “poor suppressed black people” far away grew by the day – and I remember still very vivid how we followed the call of activism and tried to convince the adults: “Don’t buy apples and other products from South Africa”. I am not sure about the checks and balances at the end – but those small little and also big activities against apartheid were at least as much as important to bring down the unjust system like the liberation struggle on the grounds of African soil. Nobody has the copyright of solely liberating South Africa.

Having the chance to work in South Africa – the new South Africa with all the dreams and yearnings of the so-called and so often praised rainbow nation – and the possibility to personally meet and talk with my heroes of youth, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late President Nelson Mandela have been ever since highlights in life so far. Working in the fields of HIV in all different levels of society has grown my empathy and my understanding of the human race. I do reflect on where I am coming from, what advantages I have had in life so far – I see the dark and inhumane side of history in South Africa – but not only there: apartheid, colonialism, extortion, abuse of human rights – I acknowledge the role, Europeans have played and are still playing and I see the riches of African culture being often suppressed till today.

But I can only acknowledge and learn from the history and apply my learning’s with empathy  in the present time to create a future where mistakes of the past should be avoided. I can only continue to strengthen and communicate my firm believe that there is only one human race, that skin color does not matter for me and should not matter for anybody. As a Catholic priest being part of more than a billion faithful from all over the world I know what power lies in the faith of being just a brother or sister for each other under one divine mystery.

I also have learned from history, that liberation armies – look at South America or even Africa – need at least a generation to understand that they are not at war anymore but needed to transform in real political parties with understanding of what democracy means. So what we see in the ANC in the moment is history repeating itself because the cadres have not learned out of history and the poor will suffer again.

This is one of the reasons why I march today – reminding myself and others that we don’t have to go the same disastrous cycle if we learn of history. I do march today not because I want to have any privileges back or sustained or because I demand solidarity; it’s the other way around:
I give solidarity to those suffering the most: the poor, those who did not make it because of mistakes of politics, but also because of the greed, the corruption, the incompetence and the ignorance within our political system.
I march today for humanity, for the dream of those having given their lives in the struggle – millions of dreamers who either fought on the battle field or attended concerts to “free Mandela” or begged the people not to buy fruits from an inhumane system.
I march to keep going the dream of a just and non-racial society being able to see the pains of people and to be willing to start the process of healing guided by wise men and women in government, in churches and other institutions.

I march with empathy and solidarity for all and with all who share this dream knowing that there is a long way to real freedom, but if we walk together every day a little bit, we will reach it – a healed society becoming again the beacon of hope for a continent, which was long written off, but – and this is my firm believe – will be on the forefront of a renewed global village in the future – the cradle of mankind a living hope for all our brothers and sisters.

Filed under: Africa, chaplain, General, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A new year for HOPE Cape Town – some thoughts…

With the 1st of March HOPE Cape Town is starting afresh in a new financial circle – the new budgets are approved and put into working, the old ones are closed and now made ready for the independent audit. Obviously the change in the currency exchange rate and so many other factors influence the outcome of budget planing – in our days it is getting more and more difficult to be as precise as possible. Therefore HOPE Cape Town is determined to follow true with the dream to have as much own capital as needed to pay all operations from the interest. It would take away the worries of constant fundraising, the constant knocking on doors which obviously also with all the reporting binds forces which could be used to aid those in need directly.

With HOPE for Babies in the maternity wards of Tygerberg Hospital the work with pregnant moms, delivering moms and then paediatric HIV to follow through with the kids infected and affected HOPE Cape Town compliments more and more its own goal to work with children from birth till they are matured in adulthood, only to come back as parents of newly born babies. The first 1000 days play a pivot role in having a holistic view and HOPE Cape Town is proud to be part of the program, the Western Province is pursuing to make sure that every newborn has the best chance in life possible in the framework of the circumstances he or she is born into. Re-visiting the Go-Box project to engage with young mothers and their babies in teaching them how to stimulate the little once with educational toys and education play adds to the bouquet of services.

Published research in national journals gives HOPE Cape Town the chance to showcase the results of best practice and to share this knowledge with those beyond the Western Cape boarders. Attending national and international conferences or, as just happened with our Program Coordinator doing an internship in a German paediatric hospital in Passau, adds to the possibilities to learn, share and being part of an international movement assisting children being infected, affected or having related illnesses or medical problems.

HIV and AIDS are topics which interconnect with so many other topics and portfolios. This lead for example to the founding of HOPE Cape Town USA – poverty, racism, the desire for Afro-Americans to find their African roots as well as infection rates are common areas to engage in a close working relationship with the USA.  Obviously also the chance to contribute as an US American to our work in South Africa is a welcomed component of this adventure. Many US students take a chance to engage with HOPE Cape Town when visiting South Africa on a field trip or excursion.

So, this small little entity called HOPE Cape Town connects three continents now: HOPE Kapstadt Stiftung in Bonn/Germany, HOPE Cape Town USA in Dallas/Texas and HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust in Cape Town / South Africa. The global family is growing slowly but substantially with all its challenges here in South Africa, but also to bring worlds together in a global village which seems in the moment so much driving apart. We hear about “America First” and all those funny slogans – HOPE Cape Town remains committed to “humanity first” and the organization will work tireless not only to serve those in need in the Western Cape but also to make sure that international understanding and care for each other stays a much-needed focal point.

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

Difficult times for an US adventure

Preparing for my trip to the USA in March I wonder how the present situation is playing out. The messages coming from US soil are divers, hostile, confusing and at least irritating. Having founded HOPE Cape Town USA last year, nobody could envisage that the situation is getting so different in such a short time. It seems that a split is going through society, either complete and utter praise or complete and utter condemnation on the style of government in which the new president conducts business.
What does this mean for a NGO trying to bridge between the USA and South Africa – to tackle common problems, specifically HIV, AIDS and children, but also related problems? There are two possible scenarios: either people in the USA are so preoccupied with the internal battles that international affairs are on the back-burner; or the opposite effect will be seen: people want to make a point that “America first” is counteracted by “humanity first”.

Be it as it will be – the uncertainty does take its toll on planing and preparation for the work ahead. It creates more question marks than answers – but maybe the only answer is to go ahead, meet people in person and try to make the world a better place cutting through the rough waves of politics and anxieties. Maybe the joint venture can be a sign for those involved to remind themselves that the world is bigger than the tenure of a president and that focusing on the men in power might feed their egos as they crave for attention.

Maybe a bit “business as usual” is needed to maintain sanity in these turbulent days – showing practically what counts in life and for the good of the world. I am determined to continue walk my way with all those of good will – showing that “America first” maybe means “America first when it comes to humanity and service”. Let’s never forget that those we try to assist are those who need the compassion especially in such uncertain times – those in poverty, those at the bottom of society; those sick and thorn apart by daily problems need all help possible.

I am looking forward to meet my friends in the USA and to continue working for the hope we are called to be for others in need.

Filed under: Africa, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
73 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 5th, 2018
8 months to go.

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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