God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

We demand a cure

The HIV activist Larry Kramer from the US gave an impassioned speech calling for a cure for the virus at a Gay Men’s Health Crisis gala (23.3.2015). The 79-year-old activist said that he no longer has “any doubt that our government is content, via sins of omission or commission, to allow the extermination of my homosexual population to continue unabated,” pointing blame at the U.S. president, Congress, the National Institutes of Health, and the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for their inaction.

Even if this might be a bit of an overreaction, one can understand the frustration of being 34 years into the pandemic and a cure or a therapeutic vaccine seems to be far away. Knowing how much money has been gone to war and the destruction of people every year it is understandable that the plight and suffering of so many million people worldwide must cause an ongoing outcry. More so as it was the USA President Ronald Reagan who clearly missed the boat of stopping this pandemic in the early times because of his religious convictions not allowing to pay attention to the drama of gay people dying. He never acknowledged it contrary to the late Nelson Mandela, who also was silent during his tenure as president of the country. But he acknowledged at least afterwards that shying away from this topic because of his traditional upbringing was a big mistake affecting millions of South Africans.
It is true: We have achieved a lot – and for the first time a global initiative, the Global AIDS Fund, was able to coordinate the war against the pandemic on a global scale. But as time passes and medications are keeping the virus at least in the so-called developed countries at bay it seems the momentum is lost and there are only half-hearted efforts to stem the pandemic further. It seems that Ebola is now more frightening than HIV even if the numbers don’t match up at all.
I am convinced that if we don’t pay attention, HIV will come back to hunt the global village and when you have a close look at the development of multi-resistant TB it is only a question of time when this little bug called HI virus will go the same route. The human race tends to never learn that nature and creation on that level also strives for survival – and looking around and seeing all those infectious diseases and STIs we thought we have conquered and cornered: TB, polio, syphilis, Ebola… – there is still a long way to go and to underestimate a virus or bacteria has cost us dearly and will continue to do so.

Larry Kramer ended up his speech with: “We must aspire to a cure once and for all. Let’s demand a cure and a society that values people with HIV enough to pay for it. Only if we aspire to more can we demand more. Only if we demand more will we get more … The power to change history is still within our grasp. We cannot wait another 34 years. This evil still being waged against us must cease. The battle cry now must be one word: CURE. CURE. CURE.”

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

No time to rest in the fight against HIV and AIDS

Coming back from Europe and heading next week to the World Aids Conference in Melbourne, the news about the so-called “Mississippi Baby” feels like a punch in the gut and a damper to the hopes of a functional cure. The child known as the “Mississippi baby” — whose apparent cure was reported in The New England Journal of Medicine last fall — has had the virus return after more than two years off anti-retroviral therapy, according to specialists involved in the case who spoke in a Thursday news briefing. “Certainly, this is a disappointing turn of events for this young child, the medical staff involved in the child’s care and the HIV/AIDS research community,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infection Diseases (USA), at the briefing. The development “reminds us that we still have much more to learn about the intricacies of HIV infection and where the virus hides in the body,” Fauci said in a statement. “The NIH remains committed to moving forward with research on a cure for HIV infection.”
Not only the NIH, but we all, the activists, researchers and those infected and affected have to acknowledge how bumpy the road to a functional cure or even a vaccine will be. This story ones again reminds us that HIV and Aids are not defeated yet. The easiness of European youth and society in believing that some pills would sort out those being infected – and further believing that this anyhow only applies to those others, those being gay or immigrants from Africa or injecting drug users should be re-evaluated after such news. HIV and Aids are still a treat to humanity and society and as we make progress, we can’t declare victory. Otherwise we look as stupid as then-president Bush declaring victory over Iraq on one of his war ships – look at the situation in the country in our days.
The news about the Mississippi baby should also serve as a warning to donors that withdrawing funding because we have won the battle is an illusion. The Global Aids Fund and all the NGO’s in the field of HIV, Aids and related illnesses need more funding to gain progress in the fight against the syndrome. We have achieved so much but there are still millions dying every year as a result of the pandemic and there are millions out there without treatment. Resistance is growing and we only have to look at TB and South Africa to see what could develop if we not keep watch. The virus is waiting for a re-run if society is not taking it serious anymore. And the dream of a HIV free generation will be blown up in shatters – therefore no time to rest in the fight against HIV and Aids.

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

The day after…

Graph showing HIV copies and CD4 counts in a h...

Graph showing HIV copies and CD4 counts in a human over the course of a treatment-naive HIV infection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

… is a movie called trying to imagine the aftermath of a war with nuclear weapons.
The day after is also a feeling one get’s after the first of December every year. All speeches are done, all ribbons distributed and the press focuses again on other issues while the church hurries to prepare for Christmas. It leaves those working with HIV, living with HIV, struggling for treatment somehow in the limbo till next December, 1st…

But obviously it is not that bleak – and the there is a goal to reach – to cut down to zero new infections but to achieve this, there is a steep way in front of us. It requires all our energy on different levels:

Those in power must shift the money they spend of killing people to research, prevention and treatment; not only of HIV but also other medical and social conditions. It is indeed very much a disturbance to see that for warfare and the kill always money is at hand, while for humanity and the sake of those less fortune, there is always a fight. And the outcome is – compared to the expenses for war preparations – simply laughable. This has to change if we want to succeed.

Those living with the virus must make an effort to live responsible and being an advocate in their own rights. But obviously this can only happen if they have the tools and education to reflect on their situation with adequate knowledge.

There must be room for short and long-term interventions. Churches should stop putting devil and hell onto condoms as this comes as the safest intervention for those sexual active. Instead they can contribute towards long-term strategies of changing human habits. I guess nobody is fond of the idea of a 9-year-old boy having sex. Puberty is coming earlier – that’s also true. So what can we do to bring the ability to have sex and the mindset of responsibility together?

The Global AIDS Fund is the right tool to distribute donations and oversee progress in a global way. Government should stop contravening global efforts in bi-national agreements which put to rest the achievements of global negotiations and multinational agreements.

There is more to strive for and let’s put all our thoughts and energy together to make the world infection free for the start. So that World AIDS Day celebrates the victory of human civilization over a pandemic which threatened and killed millions of women and men, especially those on the more vulnerable side of life.

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

Danger looming….

HIV/AIDS is shifting out of the eye of the public – it seems that the drugs available transformed a deadly disease into a chronic one. Only people deeper involved notice that we have not yet turned the tide and that still millions dying as a consequence of HIV/AIDS.

There are many reasons for things could go terribly wrong again and just as food for thoughts I want to highlight some of them coming from the political sector:

* India-EU Trade deal

According to UN AIDS 86% of people around the world taking medication the pills come as generics from India. The EU and India negotiating in the moment a free-trade deal which is a danger to the manufacturing of generic medicine because the deal delays or extends patents, requires exclusivity and looks for harsher border controls enforcement rules.

* USA deals

The USA is in the moment negotiating several deals with different partners, amongst them  Mercosur (the common market of South America), but also with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam (Trans-Pacific partnership trade agreement). In these agreements, the USA pushes for stricter patent rights and new forms of intellectual property enforcement to intercept generics more easily. The trans pacific partnership trade agreement will be a draft for further agreements between the USA and the developing world and threatens the well-being of HIV/AIDS patients around the world while protecting the big pharmaceutical industry.

* Global AIDS Fund and research

The Global AIDS Fund lacks money and more and more countries are not paying in but negotiating one to one agreements with their perspective partner countries. The aim to bring all patients on treatment and to turn the tide is threatened. The financial crisis and the inability of the political elite to modernize economics and bring back stability means that money for research is also getting less. We not only need new drugs, the aim is still to eradicate HIV and AIDS and to create a cure for the syndrome.

 

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Treatment, Politics and Society, Reflection, , , , , , , , , ,

The day of the U2 concert

The day of the U2 concert has arrived and in the days before the newspapers were full of allegations against Bono, the lead singer, accusing him of supporting Julius Malemas “kill the farmer” song. Even when Bono retracted from his statement yesterday during an interview – there is another question open:
Is this singer turned activist a blessing or a curse for Africa? The same question applies to Bob Geldorf, who seems to have found a new role amidst politicians on high-profile meeting of the G7 leadership. Looking into their claims how to help Africa, there is in my eyes only one answer: they are a curse. Asking again and again for more money is a spin, we have had for the last 50 years and indeed, never has Africa received more money than ever. And the result is also clear as the world bank defines it: The people of Africa are not getting more rich or reaching the standards of a decent living: Africa has grown poorer in all these years.
In pushing for more money as Bono and Geldorf do, they just prolong the suffering of Africa as more money does not mean more development, more education, more clean water, more decent lives to live. It is not the solution but makes a solution more difficult in the development sector.
So I guess they should stay with their music and we can discuss whether we like the music or not. But they should keep out of politics like so many music stars, who seems to get into politics when their musical career is declining or even coming to an end. We don’t need Madonnas adopting babies from Africa, Geldorfs and Bonos pushing for more dollars and euros,  we also by the way don’t need the usual “one to one” partnerships between countries which gives the giving hand so much influence (like Minister Niebler unfortunately pushes in the case of the Global AIDS Fund) – we need to see and experience the life of ordinary people out here in Africa, we need to listen and then to act in a way bringing Africa forward instead our own interests.

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

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2020

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 23rd, 2020
11 months to go.
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