God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

A _________ New Year

What should we wish for the year 2021? Should we wish for a better 2021 – or a healthier one? A more successful or a normal one?

At the end of 2020 I guess we all are sitting with a variety of feelings and emotions and trying to find words adequate to end this extra-ordinary year and to envision our wishes for the new year rising up at midnight. We have lived through a year which will ones be marked in history books as a year of the Covid-19 pandemic – and people will read the figures of death like we read and studied it in history about the black plaque or the Spanish flu. All, what remains from the suffering of people, of tears and fights for life will be numbers and cold facts. And life has moved on….

So what to wish for 2021?
Maybe that whatever we learned in 2020 might influence how we live the rest of our lives and that we pass it on to the next generation?
Those paying attention learned certainly in practice how fragile life can be and that all the promises of politicians, faith leaders and our own convincing of stability can fail in a split second. We all knew it in theory, some have experienced it in their own life, but as a global society it was a first for many.
We also learned that our political systems failed their people badly:
China, Communist and dictatorial governed failed the world in containing the virus – the system did not allow for bad news to spread and forced people to hide the truth. Even now in the aftermath, journalists who exposed the lies and cover up are sentenced to prison for years.
The capitalistic systems and democracies also failed their societies – in the USA, the system of the people for the people had produced an egomaniac sexist white old leader making lies fashionable and in his orbit the virus was marginal at best – ignored most times with horrendous consequences for people. In the European Union in March suddenly every country ran amok and the “union” part of a common response was thrown out of the window in no time. The political culture of thinking only in election cycles hindered and hinders till this very day a plan lasting longer than the next election. Visionaries are rare in our times when it comes to parliamentarians.

We also learned that anxiety and fear creates conspiracy theories and that a small minority can get a grip on media and social media, making a rational approach almost impossible. Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Covid-19 failures are in part also products and results of the negative side of social media; Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and WhatsApp need ethical guidelines and controls. If one thing is clear at the end of 2020: human mankind is not that advanced it thought it was – and maybe this knowledge may assist us in another dilemma we face: earth warming and environmental question.

We are part of the ecological system called earth – and we need all the layers and fine-tuned working mechanisms of nature to survive – our 2020 fragility might be the last warning sign for the human race to hold in and reverse course, to become a bit humbler again in how we see and approach our environment.

Coming back to the original question what to wish for 2021:

May 2021 be the year of reflection and turning our lives and lifestyles around, may the vaccine not be the entry door to going back to the normality we left in 2020, but a positive booster which not only fights a virus, but our questionable attitudes towards ourselves, our societies, our environment and our world as such.

May 2021 bring us next to physical health the mental health we need to clearly see our interconnectivity on so many levels. May it bring prosperity based on considerateness for those around us and the ambience we are living in.
May this prosperity be a shared one.

May 2021 the year of practical realisation that we are all in this together, as one human race starting to create a world without racism, starting to heal what has to be healed in this regard so urgently.

May 2021 be a year of more humanity, more decency, more considerations and more true life for all.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

Blessed Christmas

Frohe und gesegnete Weihnacht – Merry Christmas – Geseënde Kersfees – Ikrismesi emnandi –
Jabulela Ukhisimusi – oyeux Noël – Wesołych Świąt – Hyvää joulua – Feliz Natal – חג מולד שמח – Veselé Vánoce – Joyeux Noël – Buon Natale – mutlu Noeller – 圣诞节快乐 – God Jul! – Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus – สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส – Καλά Χριστούγεννα

2020 was a challenge to all of us – may the spirit of Christmas reconcile our hearts and minds and give us the energy to tackle 2021 head on. Challenges are always also possibilities – let’s use them for more life, for more hope, for more love and for more peace in the world.

Thank you for all the support received in the ending year – it was appreciated.

2020 war eine Herausforderung für alle – möge die Weihnachtszeit unsere Herzen stärken, um 2021 mit neuer Tatkraft anzugehen. Herausforderungen sind immer auch Möglichkeiten – Möglichkeiten für mehr Leben, mehr Hoffnung, mehr Liebe und mehr Frieden in dieser Welt.
Vielen Dank für alle Unterstützung im nun zu Ende gehenden Jahr.

Best wishes / In Verbundenheit

Stefan

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Uncategorized, , ,

World Aids Conference in Amsterdam

After a conference is always before a conference – but after attending this years World Aids Conference it remains to reflect on what was achieved and what does one take home?

World Aids Conferences are for me always places to listen – to step back from constantly producing or standing in front of an audience but to remain in the back of auditoriums and conference rooms to listen and learn. This year was not different, hearing how other organizations work and applaud their achievements and listen to their worries and concerns is indeed a much appreciated learning curve.

Not all looks good – so we learned in the five days: in over 50 countries worldwide the numbers of new infections are rising again and especially in the Ukraine and Russia but also the Near East we see numbers climbing. In South Africa the numbers seemed to stagnate when it comes to new infections – a situation known since years without a real explanation. There is less money globally to spend on HIV related issues and the 90-90-90 goal of UNAIDS is definitely at risk not to be reached.

On the good side we now know for certain that undetectable means no transmission possible. And it translates in more people tested and put on treatment equals less new infections. But if the laws of the land punish HIV positive people for sexual acts or even spitting with attempted murder – who wants to be open about his or her status? Ignorant governments denying a problem with HIV in their respective country or even countries which prosecute LGBTI people or sex workers can’t count on getting the people on treatment. Politics and law are standing in many countries in the way of testing and treating and with it fostering the circle of new infections. Stigma and discrimination, also in the health sector, add to the problems of not achieving a next generation of zero new infections.

So where does this leave us? First of all with lots of fresh motivation seeing and experiencing the other round about 15000 activists, researchers, doctors, community workers, lawyers; somehow confirming that one is not alone. It is great to mix and mingle and greet and smile and clap hands and feel inspired with all those fighting the same battle.

But it leaves us also with lots of continued and new challenges – the fight against HIV is not won yet, I guess some people were too sure claiming the end in 2030 – the virus remains a nasty challenge to the world and it will not give up easily.

So San Francisco will be next in 2020 – but even there is a question mark. Many activists felt and made it heard that Trump-land is not the ideal place to have such a conference. An ignorant world leader and lots of states with ignorant state laws might not be an ideal scenario for such a conference.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Treatment, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Durban2016 – a reflection on the World Aids Conference

durbanTomorrow ends the World Aids Conference in Durban – most probably the same way it started, with lots of encouraging words and hopes held high: treatment for all, equity, justice and equal treatment for those on the margins of the so-called society.

It was a week full of talks, presentations, encounters – a week full of demands, pleas, promises and a concert of different voices: researchers, activists, business people – all wanting to have a share and a say in the biggest HIV related global conference, taking place every two years.

The magic year 2020 and the numbers 90 – 90 – 90 were repeated and mentioned over and over: 90 % of the infected people should know their status; from those knowing 90% should be on treatment – and from those on treatment 90% should be undetectable.
Another magic year named very often was 2030 – the aimed end of the Aids pandemic.

But let’s be honest: all the tears, pleas and promises could not hide the fact: as the world stands today, we will not reach this goal. 16 out of 37 million people are in the moment on treatment – and the Global Aids Fund lacks promised money to reach all of the ones in need of treatment. The so-called “war on terror”, the financial crisis, the madness of politics let made financial pledges degrade into empty promises. The gap between what governments have pledged, what is needed and what they finally pay into the global fund is going into millions of US Dollars.

And it is not the lack of money – besides the madness of war and terror, perceived or real – it is the assumption that we have the Aids pandemic under control. It seems forgotten that every year 2 million new infections are still counted and 1 million people perish as a consequence of HIV, Aids and related illnesses.

But even the future looks bleak – conferences like this are needed: they serve as a public reminder of the injustice of poverty, sickness and premature death and the responsibilities of governments and public health sectors. They also bring people together one would not meet otherwise.
In South Africa without the activism we still would be told that HIV does not cause Aids and that antiretroviral treatment kills. Only activism, toi-toi and conferences as well as taking the government to court as civil society brought the much-needed results. But we should never forget those having died because Manto Tshabalala Msimang and others fought against common sense for a far too long time.

I am grateful that this conference brought me together with gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex people, with male and female sex workers and with drug users – encounters without the moral pointing finger – it was about meeting other human beings with their struggles like I have my struggles. It was about listening and giving everybody dignity and space to talk, to share, to explore, to feel loved and accepted. How much could also the churches learn from such encounters – understanding that the world is much more diverse and colorful than most allow themselves to accept in their small little world of daily and religious life.

Conferences like this also help to deepen the understanding of HIV and its related problems, it gives the chance to celebrate successes, mourn failures and last but not least to feel not alone in the battle against a deadly syndrome. 18 000 people from all over the world, united in an ongoing battle to save lives, to demand access to treatment, to put the fingers on human rights abuses and inhumane and unjust laws hindering our fellow brothers and sisters to live life to the fullest.

Conferences like this are energizing – they liberate one from the narrow views one automatically have working day in and day out in the same social and cultural environment – for me as a priest they open up to what “catholic” really means in the full sense of the word.

Churches are praised for their active role in the fight, but they are not very much appreciated when it comes to legal matters or global or national policy decisions. The anti-gay laws in Nigeria, the questions of sexual orientation and the women’s rights in matters reproduction are contentious issues which impact clearly also onto the fight against HIV and Aids. Sometimes it seems that moral considerations overshadow the life-and-death consequences, such stances have on grassroots level.
And obviously the long stance of my own church regarding condoms did not help either – and it took Benedict XVI’s interview to start open up this question in his acknowledgment, that if a male escort uses a condom to protect his customer it is the beginning of morality.

So lastly conferences like this put the finger on open questions, on answer demanding questions, they make the bridge between teaching, sciences, research, religion, faith and real life palpable and it’s the conversation between all parties which could bring solutions adequate to the life of the ordinary person plagued by all the challenges on a daily base.

So thank you to the organizers of the conference for making it possible once again to meet, to greet, to exchange, to laugh together, to learn together, to fight together, to discern together, to disagree with each other in the quest of the best answer possible.

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

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Charity Dinner in Munich / Germany 2021

A HOPE Gala event in the capital of Bavaria10/23/2021
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Stefan Hippler Twitter Account

  • RT @Strack_C: Wenn das System der Vertuschung aus sich selbst heraus funktioniert und der Ordner „Brüder im Nebel“ nur im Schrank eines ver… - 4 hours ago

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