God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Nobody left behind..

The Melbourne Declaration is the final document of the World AIDS Conference 2014 in Melbourne / Australia. In the times of discrimination and stigmatization but also criminalization especially in African countries it is important to reflect on the aspects being able to give birth to a HIV free generation. A declaration is only as potent as the implementation after the event:

AIDS 2014 Melbourne Declaration
We gather in Melbourne, the traditional meeting place of the Wurundjeri, Boonerwrung, Taungurong, Djajawurrung and the Wathaurung people, the original and enduring custodians of the lands that make up the Kulin Nation, to assess progress on the global HIV response and its future direction, at the 20th International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2014. We, the signatories and endorsers of this Declaration, affirm that non-discrimination is fundamental to an evidence-based, rights-based and gender transformative response to HIV and effective public health programmes.
To defeat HIV and achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support – nobody should be criminalized or discriminated against because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability, religious or spiritual beliefs, country of origin, national status, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a sex worker, prisoner or detainee, because they use or have used illicit drugs or because they are living with HIV.
We affirm that all women, men, transgender and intersex adults and children are entitled to equal rights and to equal access to HIV prevention, care and treatment information and services. The promotion of gender equity is essential to HIV responses that truly meet the needs of those most affected. Additionally, people who sell or who have sold sex, and people who use, or who have used illicit drugs are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, including non-discrimination and confidentiality in access to HIV care and treatment services.
We express our shared and profound concern at the continued enforcement of discriminatory, stigmatizing, criminalizing and harmful laws which lead to policies and practices that increase vulnerability to HIV. These laws, policies, and practices incite extreme violence towards marginalized populations, reinforce stigma and undermine HIV programmes, and as such are significant steps backward for social justice, equality, human rights and access to health care for both people living with HIV and those people most at risk of acquiring the virus.
In over 80 countries, there are unacceptable laws that criminalize people on the basis of sexual orientation. All people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. All people are born free and equal and are equal members of the human family.
Health providers who discriminate against people living with HIV or groups at risk of HIV infection or other health threats, violate their ethical obligations to care for and treat people impartially. We therefore call for the immediate and unified opposition to these discriminatory and stigmatizing practices and urge all parties to take a more equitable and effective approach through the following actions:
• Governments must repeal repressive laws and end policies that reinforce discriminatory and stigmatizing practices that increase the vulnerability to HIV, while also passing laws that actively promote
equality.

• Decision makers must not use international health meetings or conferences as a platform to promote discriminatory laws and policies that undermine health and wellbeing.
• The exclusion of organisations that promote intolerance and discrimination including sexism, homophobia, and transphobia against individuals or groups, from donor funding for HIV programmes.
• All healthcare providers must demonstrate the implementation of non-discriminatory policies as a prerequisite for future HIV programme funding.
• Restrictions on funding, such as the anti-prostitution pledge and the ban on purchasing needles and syringes, must be removed as they actively impede the struggle to combat HIV, sexually transmitted
infections, and hepatitis C among sex workers and people who inject drugs.

• Advocacy by all signatories to this Declaration for the principles of inclusion, non-criminalization, non-discrimination, and tolerance.
In conclusion we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to fairness, to universal access to health care and treatment services, and to support the inherent dignity and rights of all human beings. All people are entitled to the rights and protections afforded by international human rights frameworks.
An end to AIDS is only possible if we overcome the barriers of criminalization, stigma and discrimination that remain key drivers of the epidemic.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Reflection on a conference Down Under

Sitting at Melbourne airport waiting for my long trip back to South Africa it’s time to reflect on this years World AIDS Conference . I remember being in a somber and rather annoying mood entering the plane to Australia. The downing of MH17 over the Ukraine produced not only an unease feeling about flying, but also a sense of real anger that downright stupid politics could translate in killing innocent people high up in the sky. Somber and serious was also the mood at the opening ceremony when a minute of silence was observed before in a rather helpless move the usual declaration followed: “They would have wanted us to go ahead.” Bright heads were lost and honestly we can’t effort to lose one in the battle against HIV and AIDS.

The topics discussed of the conference were as diverse as the visitors. From the scientific portfolio the discovery of how to “kick and kill” the virus presented from the University of Aarhus in Denmark got lots of publicity. Another step in the effort for a functional cure lots of scientists and activists are dreaming of.
Human rights and HIV was another returning topic. As it is now common knowledge, there are three groups driving the infection worldwide: MSM – men who have sex with men, Escorts and prostitutes and IDU – injecting drug users.
IDU’s and Sex for money are in most countries matters of police and justice, driving those involved rather in the dark corner of society. That makes it very difficult to approach those affected and bring prevention, care and protection into those circles.Homosexuality is specially in Africa in the moment a hot topic – US American Evangelists telling Africans how to be an African achieved quite a lot of damage in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya putting all efforts to hold the epidemic in jeopardy. Unfortunately the churches in these countries played their part to drive the pandemic back in the underground where it will continue to thrive and come up with new infections.

2020 is now the buzz word for an AIDS free generation, but as it became clear on the conference, we might miss the aim because of money constrains. Too many people worldwide are still without treatment or even don’t know their status. Too many in power think that the problem is solved at least for their country and don’t really give a damn about the rest of the world.  We have achieved so much in the last years and it would be more than a pity if we would let go again and give the virus a second chance.

The Global Village was smaller than in Washington but not less interesting to see what others had to showcase . It was a pleasure to mingle and meet people from all over the world and knowing that we all try in our ways to end the pandemic.
The Exhibition Hall was populated by all the pharmaceutical companies and those producing equipment of all kind. Here the same picture emerged which always irritates me: some African representatives coming with their big shopping bags and taking away what they can on pens, note blogs and other gifts. I was standing next to the Imperial booth where one representative reprimanded a fellow delegate that she has already been here yesterday to take all pens she could get a hand on. To no avail: as soon as she turned around the delegate took another load before disappearing into the next booth. I can’t but feel embarrassed by this attitude.

Religion and Aids was also a topic now and then. There was a Catholic pre-conference which seems to happen every two years but rather an insider affair with selected participants. At the main conference I attended one on podium on religion and AIDS and I was honestly not impressed about the Catholic representative from India, quoting mainly all what is forbidden to do according to the Catholic catechism. The amount of people leaving the room while he was speaking spoke for itself. A missed opportunity as the Catholic church has a social teaching which contributes so much in this field and a moral theology which should be opened up to development.  I met with a Catholic activist from the Philippines who interestingly was also part of the pre-conference, himself sponsored by a Australian outreach church. Mentioning the strict role of the dominant Catholic church in his home country he also mentioned that at the pre-conference it had to turn down his rhetoric as in his country one does not speak out to direct when “Fathers” are present.

When I look back now on the entire conference then it seems that AIDS is really taking a backseat more and more. The conference was well organised but without real highlights – yes there was Bill Clinton and as always he drew big crowds and at the final plenum one had to endure Bob Geldorf and his platitudes. Like always it was the input of hard-working scientists and activists which triggered my interest. It’s their hard work which moves the fight against HIV and AIDS forward. The global figures show that simply spoken the danger isn’t over yet and there are still too many new infections and too many deaths to count every year. Stigma, ignorance and discrimination are still prevalent and show their ugly faces every day for thousands of people infected and affected.

The World Aids Conference is coming back to one of the hotspots in 2016 – Durban / South Africa. It is meant to close the gap and to win the battle. That means hard work for the next two years and overcoming the challenges and obstacles lying ahead. We from HOPE Cape Town will surely be part of it and as the conference will be in South Africa, there will be surely be more representation possible than sending one lonely man to down-under 🙂
But for him like for most such a conference is always an energizer moment realising one is not alone. Thousands world wide are lenting their knowledge and skills, their helping hand to end the pandemic and to give back dignity to all those affected and infected. Conferences like this are necessary to learn, to embrace new ideas, to see, touch and feel for yourself that one is part of a bigger movement for the greater good of mankind.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Not boring at all…

Who would have thought half a year ago that being a Catholic can bring so much excitement and development. And this until now without any change in substance of teaching. Who would have thought that a man from South America, not known to the public, which really had to goggle the name when announced on that very day of his election in spring this year, could turn the world upside down for many Catholics. A little bit scary for those on the conservative side and creating a new feeling of belonging again for those called more liberal.
First talk about mercy before you even touch on rules – mirror the unconditional love of God – don’t judge – see the signs of the times – transform you sermons into practical work going to serve the poor, the underdogs, those at the margins of society.

A pope, who recognizes that he himself is not without flaw, a pope who knows that he is standing in a row with all of us struggling to do the right thing in life. A pope who is not shy to speak his mind. And don’t worry, I am sure he certainly knows what he wants and there is certainly a sense for power and responsibility given to him through his election. The  decision to laicize Fr. Greg Reynolds in Australia shows that not all is hanging in the air and all rules are put aside. But what I love is that there is suddenly a difficulty to be “conservative” and “progressive” – the labeling seems not to fit anymore and fresh air is blowing the windows of the church wide open. The spirit of the II Vatican Council seems to have come back after a long and cold phase of perceived absence. What is scary is that those, who in the times of Benedict XVI called for penalties for those criticizing the pope now claim to have a right to take offense on what he is doing and preaching. And obviously it is scary to see how many in higher positions have changed tune over night. But maybe it is the spirit calling…

But on the positive side: this change of attitude allows again to think within the church, to feel part of the church, to enjoy being a Catholic priest. And for the work in the fields of HIV and AIDS it certainly opens the way to think again how to bring sciences and faith more together as two aspects on the path towards understanding God’s ways. No, it is not boring in our church and it feels good to know, that our church is progressing as God’s people in this world, bringing the gospel of God’s unconditional love through deeds of mercy and compassion into the hearts and minds of people.

Filed under: Catholic Church, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Humanae Vitae syndrome

I am used to page every morning I do have access to internet to browse through all the news, obviously as a Catholic priest also through the Catholic news world. And somehow reading through the last months or so brought up the thought that our church is suffering of a sort of “Humanae Vitae syndrome”.  I don’t think I have to mention how ill received the decision of Paul VI was with most of the faithful and generally around the world and even years and decades of Catholic teaching did not change it. It is a reality even our Pope Benedikt XVI acknowledges that Catholics around the world do not obey the rule not to use contraception and have this kind of family planing.
This is by now means a dogma nor put it in doubts the essentials of Christian teaching, believing in God, life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit. But it seems that this topic is distracting us as the church from being heard or taken seriously in other moral or ethical matters and as a matter fact: never has the majority of faithful embraced or adhered or accepted this vote of Paul VI. The latter makes the teaching even more difficult from a theological point of view. At the end it all has to do with sexuality and it’s connection with sin as proclaimed by Thomas of Aquino and before St. Augustine.

Reading now through the news I just realise how much this question of sexuality is still bordering us as a church and leads us to fights which might be preventable if you just listen to science and new research, the other way of finding God according to our pope  and both cannot contradict each other for this reason.  Melinda Gates, a Catholic is under heavy fire for her campaign to bring contraception and family planing to those areas in the world where poverty is prevalent. The US American Bishops go to court and do a “fortnight for freedom” to battle a health reform which brings so many blessings to Americans. But the questions of contraception overwrite it all, it seems.

Seeing it in the context of sexuality – Scotland’s bishops are gearing up for a fight against same-sex partnerships on the civil side and declaring, that “marriage is under threat and politicians need to know the Catholic Church will bear any burden and meet any cost in its defence”. In Australia one can read the same story and in Uganda, the Catholic Church sites with people, who demand the death penalty in the context of same-sex love.

Have a look at the USA again and the battle of the Catholic nuns, specially the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). About 80% of the 57,000 U.S. nuns  and sisters belong to the LCWR. The Vatican announced that the group’s leadership and programming would be taken over by three bishops because their stance on sexual issues are not identical with the teaching of the church. The same applies to the case of Sr Margaret A. Farley, R.S.M and her book”  Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics (2006). The Congregation of Faith wrote to the most respected Catholic theologians in the United States: “”Among the many errors and ambiguities in this book are its positions on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage and the problem of divorce and remarriage,”

For myself, I also just want to mention the field of HIV and AIDS where the stance of the Catholic Church does not win her friends despite the fact, that our church is doing so much in this field which is good. To give answer meant to different questions like the condom question which can be in the cases of HIV and AIDS a question of life and death is simply not good enough anymore. And to mention, even as a sideline remark, that condoms aggravate the problem is more than questionable.

I wonder why those topics with sexual connotation are really that important to the faithful that we spend so much time and energy and money and dedication to it. Are there no more important issues? Isn’t it time to reconsider and reconcile our non-dogmatic teaching and put love, faith and hope to the front of our sermons. And acknowledge that we part of civil society, but that civil society is more diverse and has other obligations then we as a church. We can voice our concerns, we can contribute to discussions and we should do so. And otherwise we should concentrate on all those topics where the world is in flames: human rights, dignity, enough food for all, ethics of politics and economics, bio-ethic… – just to name a few.. It is not that those involved and silenced and ignored have the intention of throwing out the whole of moral theology and teaching. Their intention is clearly to enhance the way we see and judge situations in life and to develop our theological and pastoral standing. Or simply to give honest answers to the questions of todays faithful.

And within this context one has to mention the Sensus Fidelium; that is  what the Christian people believe, accept, and reject. The Sensus Fidelium is connected to the promise of Christ to protect us from error with the guidance of the Spirit. Church hierarchy have taught what to believe, accept, and reject, but always with acceptance or a corrective response by theologian and the faithful even from the very beginning, as described in the Act 15. Obviously there has been in increase of faithful till today – so the Sensus Fidelium is a challenge. In conjunction with”Ecclessia semper reformanda” (The church must always be reformed” the challenge becomes even bigger. And maybe here lies the biggest question mark: Is the hierarchy willing to listen, to recognise and honor the fact, that the faithful and the theologian have a major role to play in developing of the theology. And is the Role of the Congregation of Faith not also in facilitating this process instead of only marking where freedom of speech and academic teaching with in the Catholic Church is at it’s very end. So a transformation from “watchdog only” to facilitator of serious dialog in the framework of the Sensus Fidelium.

And nobody should say that the church is not able to change the decision of previous popes. Slavery, democracy, freedom of religious choices are examples how much the church has changed. And Benedikt XVI has done it just now with the words “pro multis” in the Eucharistic prayer – and he argues that we have learned more and most put it into practice. I salute him for his courage and I hope that this also applies to other topics.

We need a serious dialogue, which it looks to me, parts of the German episcopate in their “Dialogprozess” have started. I salute them for this.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

22.09.2009 more fundamental questions…

In the last days I described my stance on mandatory testing and the pre-testing counseling. Having now more time to dedicate my energy towards the HIV/AIDS portfolio, there are more topics I feel are necessary to persue in the coming months and years. I have spoken already about the need to end the stigmatization within the health sector itself.  On the political front I can forsee to look more intensive into the question of travel freedom of people living with the virus. The ban to visit certain countries or the ban to get a work permit if you are HIV positive as you can find it in Australia, Singapore and many other countries is not only a sign of a lack of maturity of politicians in the respective countries but also a clear violation of human rights. I am aware that the UN, but also the German “AIDS Hilfe” is dealing with the issue, but we should all join hands and start to pressurize political systems allowing such violations of dignity and human rights.
In some of the blogs I mention the work with HIV positive priests and religious as well as seminarians. This is indeed a very tricky question and I hope that in October, when I am in Rom to meet together with Joachim Franz with the papal council for health care workers, to get this council on board to have a hard look how we deal with HIV and AIDS in our own ranks. Is the refusal to take a HIV positive person into e.g. monkhood or a seminary not a sign of fear and immaturity of the church? Are we as a church really allowed to deal with infected people in refusing them to follow their vocation? I am sure that God does not mind the status of a person. So we also shouldn’t mind the HIV status of a person. What kind of AIDS policies are regulating the life of the church and their institutions? Do we advocate the acceptation of people living with the virus only for the area outside the church? Tough questions, but we owe it the greater love of God to check our own balances on those questions and see whether they add up.

The ethical question of ceasing treatment if somebody does not adhere at all – also a tricky question. I mentioned the criminal law as a tool of prevention, which I find absolutely unreasonable in the way it is administered in most countries, specially also here in Africa.

Those are some of the questions in my mind, where I would like to contribute towards a solution which ends the madness of stigmatization and discrimination, which forces governments and churches to act reasonable and always upholding the dignity and human rights of every person.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenNovember 16th, 2019
88 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2020

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 23rd, 2020
9 months to go.
Follow God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE on WordPress.com

Blog Categories

Block Entries Calender

August 2019
S M T W T F S
« Jul    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Stefan Hippler Twitter Account

  • RT @MelanieWebbSA: By all accounts, the VBS looting was an unsophisticated operation, easy to unravel. Why have there been no arrests? I wo… - 9 hours ago

HOPE Cape Town Twitter Account

You can share this blog in many ways..

Bookmark and Share

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,028 other followers

Translation – Deutsch? Française? Espanol? …

The translation button is located on each single blog page, Copy the text, click the button and paste it for instant translation:
Website Translation Widget

or for the translation of the front page:

* Click for Translation

Copyright

© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This not withstanding the following applies:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

%d bloggers like this: