God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

A plastic bag with blood

Driving up the West-coast Road and listening to the news my thoughts kept swirling around one of the news reporting of the murder of 4 year-old Iyapha Yamile from Khayelitsha, found in a plastic bag close to her home early Monday morning. The reporter covering the case reported further of four suspects aged between 20 and 30 years old being arrested under the suspicion of this murder. I try to imagine what a person or a group of people could drive to murder a 4-year-old child – somehow it seems to me that the young age of the victim symbolizes how  sick society has become where murder or attempted murder is part of the daily local news.

The four-year old is only one of so many babies and children being killed and murdered on a weekly base – and for me, this mirrors the state of affair this country is in in the moment. If all the failed politics does not wake us up on the seriousness of trouble South Africa is in, the amount of murder, killings for gain or political reasons, the thousand of rapes and the destitute of people trying to make a living through crime should give us the wake up call we need to listen to.

We are living in a sick and hurt society – and what is needed are not revolutions or leaders still in combat mode and struggle mood but those who are ethical and concerned to heal the divide, to acknowledge the hurt, to see the disadvantaged, to listen to those feeling left behind and therefore to shine as an example of moral and ethical leadership.
If there is need for a radical economic transformation then it is radical in love, compassion and attention to detail, economic in a way, resources are used and the result must be the transformation of hearts and minds with an adequate education system and real chances to achieve a decent life without the tools of bribes, corruption or bullying through the ranks.

Let’s add honesty and leading by example – South Africa could then shine again as an example in the global village that there is a way to learn from the past, tackle the presence and achieve a future for all in an honest and human way.

 

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Moral responsibilities to disclose your HIV status?

Moral responsibilities to disclose your HIV status to partners aren’t so clear-cut

By Bridget Haire

Bridget Haire is a lecturer in ethics, HIV prevention at UNSW Australia.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sexual ethics is an area prone to strongly felt moral intuitions. We saw this play out in the good, bad and sometimes ugly commentary following Charlie Sheen’s public disclosure of his HIV status. But just how much disclosure is it reasonable to expect from a sex partner, particularly if that relationship isn’t a serious and committed one?
Common morality
There is a “common morality” precept that for sex to be truly consensual, sexual partners need to disclose certain facts to their intended partner. This includes information about sexually transmissible infections, and whether the person is in a committed (supposedly) exclusive relationship such as a marriage. Identity is also relevant. It’s generally considered wrong (and often a crime) to have sexual relations with someone by means of deception such as impersonation.
Withholding material facts or deceiving a sexual partner deprives a partner of making an informed choice about whether or not to engage in sex, given the particular social and health contexts that apply. If consent to sex was dependent on an intentional deception, it was coerced rather than freely given. This “common morality” precept is also upheld from a sexual rights perspective. This decrees that every person has the right to freedom and to protection from harm, such as those harms that accrue from coerced sex.
But there are exceptions
These principles appear fairly straightforward but can become vexed when there is risk for the person disclosing, or it’s unclear whether the facts themselves require disclosure. Consider instances where transgendered people may seek to “pass” as their non-birth gender to a sexual partner. Under the sexual rights framework, all people have a right to non-discrimination and to enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms on an equal basis to others. These fundamental freedoms include the right to sexual pleasure. If the intended sexual partner of a trans person is not accepting of transgender concepts and is entrenched in gender binaries, he or she may react to disclosure by rejection or even violence. Arguably then, it may be reasonable not to disclose transgender status given that it could involve serious risk, foreclose the possibility of sexual pleasure and expose the disclosing person to discriminatory hostility.
From the condom code to negotiated safety
When HIV first erupted in the 1980s, gay communities emphasised condoms as a universal precaution, rather than relying on the disclosure of HIV status, which was not always known.
The condom code of the 1980s was also a community-building strategy that recognised the importance of sex for gay men who had fought to have laws criminalising gay sex removed. The stigma and discrimination that had been associated with homosexuality transformed into gay liberation and pride. The condom code emphasised mutual protection rather than a division along the lines of HIV status. This avoided some of the perils of HIV stigma at a time when connection and support were of critical importance in order to care for the sick. As the epidemic matured and treatment options developed from marginally effective drugs with difficult side effects to the highly effective and well-tolerated combination therapies used today, prevention responses also evolved. From the early 1990s, gay men in couples began to make strategic use of HIV testing to determine whether or not they needed to use condoms with each other. This strategy, dubbed “negotiated safety”, was one of several ways to reduce HIV risk that involved testing. Now, HIV treatment can reduce one’s viral load to undetectable levels and reduce HIV transmission to partners. This has raised questions about whether people with undetectable viral loads can consider themselves uninfectious, and whether they are legally or morally compelled to disclose their status to partners. Interestingly, some public health laws such as the New South Wales Public Health Act require disclosure. But taking “reasonable precautions” against transmitting the infection is cited as a defence. Whether or not such “precautions” may include maintaining an undetectable viral load, as distinct from using a condom, has not been tested.
Disclosing HIV status
At the moral level, does a person with HIV have a duty to disclose her or his status to a sex partner? That depends. While sex is a physically intimate act, sexual relationships have different levels of depth and intensity, ranging from the most seriously committed to the casual and transient. Duties to sexual partners must therefore sit on a gradient. Within the most trusting and committed relationships, non-disclosure of a serious infection such as HIV would undermine the intimacy of the partnership. In casual sex situations, however, HIV disclosure may not be morally required (though in many Australian states it remains legally required), so long as some form of safe sex is practised. Some communities have long recognised that using a condom could discharge the responsibility to disclose. Arguably, maintaining an undetectable viral load could also be seen as adequate, particularly if combined with further risk-reduction measures such as strategic positioning (adopting the receptive role during unprotected sex). With the many and varied relationships that fall somewhere between the two poles, degrees of trust need to be negotiated, and not assumed. All people have duties to their sexual partners regardless of their HIV status and all people have a responsibility to be moral actors in a sexual community. Stigmatising and rejecting sexual partners on the basis of an HIV status needs to be recognised as a moral wrong that works against creating a culture where HIV can be discussed freely and without fear. The response to Charlie Sheen’s announcement of his HIV status demonstrates we have a long way to go before banishing the discriminatory and offensive reactions to HIV-positive people. It’s time to recognise the role that every sexual actor plays in creating a culture where sex is safe for all

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

05.01.2010 Holiday blues…

Staying on holiday so far away from home has two disadvantages: The first is that people forget that there is indeed a time difference and that phoning me in the evening means waking me up after midnight. Well, one might say, that one could simply switch off the cell during night – and yes, that’s right. But – and this is the second disadvantage: climax points of disasters and worries happening normally especially, when one is far away – so one is needed the most, when one is far away… Or is that only my fantasy?? 🙂

Nevertheless, Bangkok is starting to fill up again with people and cars and noise; normal life has come back to the city of angels. And checking the news I see our president dancing the Zulu wedding dance in full leopard outfit – his third wife, not to count the divorced one and the deceased one – and it is mentioned that he is already engaged with future wife number four. And it comes to my mind what that all means to fidelity in marriage – and the concept of marriage as we Catholics have. Not to mention that his now third wife has already three kids – so sexuality must have been practiced before marriage. Which is obvious for most Africans, as after paying the lobola the couple is allowed to engage in sexual activities before the wedding ceremony – old African traditions – once again – what does this mean to the more Eurocentric view of Catholicism which puts sex only into the marriage.

Here in Bangkok I am reading in the moment a book about katoeys – the third gender in Thailand – and once again I asked myself, what does the existence of such a third gender mean in the framework of Catholic moral theology.

So not, only sleepless nights, but also so many questions and so little answer…  And all this has indeed also to do with the topic of HIV and AIDS and how we approach it.. Well, I still have more than a week time to find some…  🙂

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Politics and Society, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

20.09.2009 Beyond the condoms…

Having written a blog entry about the criminalization of  HIV and seeing the response so far, I just realise that there are quite some moral and ethical issues we still have to deal with in the fields of HIV and AIDS. One is used to hear only about the condom story when talking about or talking with the Catholic Church, but there are more things coming to my mind:
– Equality of man and women
– Criminal Code and HIV
– Travel restrictions or travel ban and human rights
– Commencement and possible cessation of treatment
– Dealing of the Catholic Church (or any church) with their own clergy being positive
– Understanding of sexuality in the context of Europe, Africa and Asia as well as Latin America
– Abstinence only or diverse approach towards prevention work

I wish I could convince the German and the Southern African Bishops Conference to set up a study group on all these issues and surely a couple of more questions, which will come up in a brainstorming session. It would make such a difference.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, Politics and Society, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

08.08.2009 Broken promise

How does interaction between people work? I guess, one of the basics is that if you agree about something, you keep word and hold on to the agreement. Otherwise it is difficult to see how life & cooperation and interaction should work on the long term run. If you cannot rely on somebodies promise, the interaction is fundamentally disturbed.

This applies very much in the field of the relationship between employer and employee. I am still struggling with the fact, that somebody working for a bishops conference is not only able to break agreements repeatedly and one-sided and that a bishop is actually covering up for such an behavior. This is not only sad, but brings up fundamental questions about the working ethic of such an entity. Mobbing and broken promises should never be part of dealing with an employee, even if the victim it is only a priest without the right to contest it in a secular court of law.

For me these experiences leave deep tracks in understanding of church personal. I only know that dealing with people means honesty, means integrity and means standing to his own word. Otherwise I act anti-social, a-social.  We as a church stand for justice and peace; it was unthinkable for me, that such behavior would be condoned by the conference secretary or even a bishop. Call me naive for not expecting it – but at least I am learning that having a social conscience seems not to be a credential for somebody leading a department at a bishops conference.

But I finally refuse to be a victim – leaving tracks does not mean to give up hope. I am convinced that you harvest, what you sowed – and that behavior like the described one only shows the lack of the experience of the unconditional love of God, which makes you able to deal with the next person in a civilised way. Such behavior indicates for me also an fundamental unhappiness with oneself. For me it is a sign, how unsaved a person is. So frustration and anger transforms into pity and compassion. It takes time – for me a whole holiday to come to that conclusion, but since then, I feel free to move on on my way and to search for a way to live my calling… Exciting times indeed.

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2018

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

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