God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Inhumanity of systems

“The system does not allow for it” – how often have you heard this answer when trying to change or streamline something at a customer care center or at a counter of a major airline or company. It seems to me, that the more we try to perfect the systems to run and organize our lives in society the more we are giving away this little quench of humanity making companies, city administrations, airline companies and in general any entity dealing with clients or customers on a bigger scale.
Systems should be there to serve people, especially computer programs are invented to make life easier but in reality, they are starting to complicate things. Living in South Africa, I am sure most of my fellow comrades will have had run ins with Telkom, the SABC or even the traffic department because payments are not registered properly and the helpless and mostly clueless customer care agent can only try to calm down the customer while the system is the person in question hunting down without mercy or relief up to the debt collectors letters without having the possibility to stop the nonsense.

I guess we also have to take care that our systems in church or an NGO does not become the perfect battle ground for inhumane systems and that we strive the balance between work easier done and having the chance to show that we as human beings still deal with human beings.  I remember a diplomat getting into a court battle at home, because the church system of taxation didn’t recognize him being abroad for some years but initiated at the end  a legal battle because the system did not allow for being abroad a longer time. Obviously this harmed his relationship with the respective church quite a bit.

I guess to counter the computerization of our lives we have to escape the idea to connect everything we are doing, from work via fitness via eating habits via social media with a digital system. I know people who run around the kitchen table just to have the magic number of steps given by their fitness wristband computer.

To remain human we must de-computerize our life where our personal habits become prescribed by a brainless micro-chip. There is indeed more than ever the need for an extended ethics of computer use and digitization of our lives. This besides the fact that such systems are indeed dangerous for our personal freedom and all the civil rights people so hard-fought for… 1984 from G. Orwell is starting to become more reality than we as normal citizens are aware of.

And so, while still fighting already paid traffic fines I will continue to think how I can balance better my personal freedom versus a digital world promising convenience of life without telling the whole story.

Filed under: Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sick and tired of violence

Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Central African Republic, Ukraine, Yemen, Palestine and Israel – the news of violence, war and terror is a permanent feature on all news channels and I realize fatigue is setting in watching and zipping to all those channels with news seemingly to be for years the same.
Paris, Bamako – lock down in Brussels – and waiting for the next hit – around the world travel warning from the US and the discussions about sacrificing our freedoms fought for over long periods seems to head into a new direction of Orwell’s 1984 and even moreSouth Africa – #feesmustfall of the students means meanwhile arson, violence, destruction – almost hundred attempted murders per day in South Africa, from which are half successful. The taxi mafia continues to rule the streets and create havoc – service delivery protests can’t be without violence and damage anymore and whoever wants to take a drive on the national road N2 between Cape Town and Somerset West must be on the watch out – even police officers are not exempt falling victim of violence.
Coming back to the big world again – happy bombing from France – revenge for Paris, together with Russia and David Cameron can’t wait to extend his military reach in the Middle East – together with the continues and relentless extra-legal killings via drones – another permanent of this year’s news – especially when collateral damage means that unfortunately innocent people are killed too.
And as this would not be enough blood shed the state sponsored killings in the USA and Saudi-Arabia, but also not to forget in Indonesia and in other places seems to pick up again – another example that the capacity of governments and people to exercise respect for the sanctity of life degrades in the moment.

I must admit that I am in the moment sick and tired of all the violence on so many levels. Trying to get into the spirit of Advent as a Christian even worsens the situation as it becomes painfully clear how much we are away from the hope of Advent as the preparation of welcoming somebody in the world we see as the Prince of Peace and the messenger of unconditional love to all creation.
It seems that the new lonely caller in the wilderness we hear from in the bible changed his name from John the Baptist to Pope Francis amongst some other religious leaders . His travel this week to the war-thorn region of the Central African Republic with all the unknown and the danger would be a sign, that there might be other ways to answer violence and brutality than with weapons and violence.

But would that also be possible with ISIS or Daesh? Is there another way than throwing bombs?

I am convinced that bombings are not the answer, but that there are other strategies more promising to end this evil:
For example to acknowledge that there is a steady stream of unhappy Europeans following the call of ISIS and if we really want to root out such extremism we have to start in the suburbs of Paris, of Brussels, of Hamburg, of all the major cities in the USA. We have indeed to battle for the minds and the hearts of those feeling that they are not part of our society. Secondly let’s stop fulling the war in this region with selling weapons to “rebels” and other those, in the moment seemingly on the right side of history – in Afghanistan and Iraq history has thought us that the right side of history can quickly turn into the wrong one – ask the CIA which actually made Bin-Laden the person he became later on. Or Saddam Hussein, who was bolstered first to fight the revolution in Iran before falling out with the USA. Do we never learn out of mistakes?
Bombing, killing, extra-juridical killing by drones – it all creates an environment where people from ISIS will indeed flock together and new terrorists and suicide bombers are created on a daily base. The sad story of Israel and Palestine shows how the devils circle of violence never stops until somebody breaks it. And I am convinced to stop ISIS to gain more territory and cutting them off from the oil trade or trade of antiques will dry them out – cut them of the honor to connect them with  religion or Islam by getting the Umma to simply distance themselves – I am quite sure it will help to make this self-proclaimed caliphate a footnote of history in short time.

And let’s recognize and acknowledge that the wealth of Europe has its base in the exploitation of the African continent and the European colonies worldwide – and that they owe the people in Africa, in South America and where ever all the empires stretched for longer or shorter periods of time. Lots of country borders have been drawn on paper and without looking at situation. Lots of governments and dictators came into power because – at that time –   they either belonged to the anti-communist quarters or the other way around. We still haven’t worked it through – and we still are tempted to continue to make the same mistakes again and again. European governments judge not fairly but whatever suits best the Western World – they don’t have the focus on uplifting the people worldwide but what gives them more profit and fosters the lifestyle, Europe and North America wants to keep as long as possible. Let’s be honest: the conviction that we have to develop a new world order, a new way of dealing with each other is still in the infancy of the conscience of human civilization. We have conquered the technology but the rest lacks behind.

Advent – new beginning – may the feeling of being sick and tired of violence turn into a new approach of making the world a more peaceful place on all levels of life – a life to be called to live to the fullest.

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

The world in which we live..

NBC Nightly News broadcast

NBC Nightly News broadcast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not sure that is common experience but I was always interested in putting my work and my immediate surroundings into the context of what happens around the world. And sometimes I feel overwhelmed from all the bad news coming via different news channels. But they touch me somehow and influence me in a way I am not sure I can define in a proper way.
Looking around me there is the big scandal of espionage – who ever thought Facebook is not safe now knows that there seems to be all stops pulled to gain access to all emails and chats. I never thought, that internet is safe, but knowing that there is a systematic approach to bend the law and obviously dismiss the freedom and privacy of ordinary citizens under the pretext of security brings this knowledge to a new level and is depressing.
Yesterday the pope visited the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa and urged help for desperate migrants who risk their lives getting there – I am impressed and a bit proud that humanity and a joyful approach to our faith is visible in our leadership. And it feels good that there is a sense of openness again within our church; there is a sense of being allowed to speak out freely and without fear – what a blessing.
Syria – how often have I experienced the hospitality of Syrian people and Egypt where a colleague of mine is stationed – the travesty of politics in both cases shows how little respect our political systems have when it comes to the Arabic spring and it’s people concerned.
From Europe there comes the news that two more people seems to have lost their infection after a bone-marrow transplant, these are some good news from overseas. Here in South Africa we watch with horror the ugly Mandela soap opera – where the fight about the inheritance already has begun before the great statement has even closed his eyes.

We cannot escape the world we live in, and I sometimes wonder, what kind of influence this world has in all the needy township communities, where also news and soap operas impact on the minds and hearts of people. How does it affect the people seeing the madness of the big world and of course of their small world – the glitter of high society life mirrored in South African but also US soap operas but also the obvious corruption of their politicians, the wealth of the few who made it out of poverty and now play big shots in politics and society without being too much concerned about the well-being of their fellow citizens.

Working as a priest and working with people living with the HI virus means working in a micro – environment. It is work on the very personal level of society. But I cannot help but continue to wonder how much the bigger scenario interacts with this very personal level and how the overwhelming flood of information through all kinds of media makes life and touching each others lives more difficult and challenging.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tunesia, Egypt, Jemen ..

Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen – Jordan not far and maybe more to come. It is amazing for me to see how people cling on power throughout their life and expect that the position is one of a lifetime. The same we have on other  levels and in other fields:   founders of NGO’s who think they earn a lifetime pedestal in their respective organisation, local public figures,also church personal who clings to title and hierarchy level achieved. Sometimes it seems to me that those people simply don’t know who they are and that they never have achieved the inner maturity to be who they are meant to be. They cling to power, to title, to job because that is what keeps them straight and creates the stability necessary for life. But at the end they all depend on things which are not part of their inner being. There is no freedom of a mature person.

Freedom is always difficult, it is always a challenge, it asks always for decisions – it is so much more stressful than just being told what is black and white, right and wrong and just running life according to these parameters. How often is abuse of people the result. How often is ignorance another result – ignoring the truth, ignoring the people around one as that all is not asked for in such a life. I guess that also the big and small leaders, who cannot let go, are prisoners of their own ignorance, and victims of all those around them, who only articulate what they think the person concerned want to hear.

It is always good to have people who are able, willing and allowed to speak out, draw other scenarios, disagree, advise in an honest way. And prevent that we are so much cushioned in our position that we forget that all we do will have an end, and best is that in most cases we determine when to end a chapter in our life and start a new one. And give at the end others the opportunity to grow and deliver.

I am personally grateful to everybody who is not shy to give advice, to disagree – even if I don’t like it at times ..  🙂 But at the end, they are so necessary for me to find my way through life as a priest, as a co-founder of an NGO and in all the other capacities I have to deal with people and issues.

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

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
3 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018

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