God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

New National Health Insurance Plan

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While South Africa is considering and planing for a new Health care insurance system  which would give its citizens more possibilities to use health care in a dignified and fair way, the same has already happened in the USA. After long battles a new health care  policy is in place and more US Americans are able to get access to health care facilities and the right treatment independent of their financial background.

It is interesting to see, that despite several changes in the act, the US American Catholic Bishops Conference is still fighting the plan, as it includes family planing. To recap: In January 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services issued its mandate as part of the health care reform law that contraceptive care, such as prescriptions for birth control pills, must be fully covered as part of any insurance plan. Some religious organizations are exempt from this rule, but a number of Catholic groups say those exemptions are not enough. While the bishops have continued to oppose the mandate, other Catholic groups, such as the Catholic Health Association, have said the administration has addressed their concerns in the revisions. According to the last version of the federal mandate, which the administration released June 28, any organization that self-certifies as a nonprofit religious group with religious objections to contraceptive coverage can defer coverage of contraceptives to a separate health insurance issuer. The administration “has now established an accommodation that will allow our ministries to continue offering health insurance plans for their employees as they have always done,” the Catholic Health Association’s president,  Sr. Carol Keehan, said after the release of the last version of the mandate. The organization, which describes itself as the largest group of nonprofit health care providers in the nation, comprises more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in the USA.
Well, the bishops see it differently:

The Bishop heading the commission dealing with the national health care act, Cardinal Dolan even goes so far that the bishops are concerned that the mandate does not cover for-profit businesses run by individuals who may oppose certain contraceptive services. In essence what he is saying is: If I have a company with hundreds of employees and I have certain religious conviction, then I am entitled to enforce them for all working in my company, even if they don’t share this convictions and they are irrelevant to the work they are doing. It would in practice mean that a Witness of Jehovah Shop owner can exclude blood transfusion for his employees.  It is interesting to see whether such an argument will hold for the future of the bill, and especially on a topic which is since the introduction of Humanae vitae never fully adopted by practicing Catholics and even questioned in its rigidity by Bishops around the world. During the debate phrases like “protecting the freedom of religion” were used and the treat of the end of religious liberty put onto the map.

It has to be seen what the debate in South Africa holds in store when it comes to the point, what services should be included in a new Health Insurance Policy, there are surely interesting times ahead also for us here in South Africa. But it is to hope that at the end, the fundamental right of every citizen to health care according to each and every-bodies conscience prevails. Informed decisions like it has been long introduced in the sector of HIV and AIDS and TB and cancer therapies. The church has a right to enter into such a debate but must also acknowledge that its belief cannot be binding to all citizens regardless of their faith. This trickles down from the nation to single companies where the freedom to choose health care services must be balanced against the conscience of the company owner. We as the church can advocate what we belief is right, but never force democratic nations or people to follow.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Medical and Research, Politics and Society, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Visitors to HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust

 

Today,  Mrs. Elke Ferner, Deputy Chair of the SPD party in the German parliament and Mrs. Evelyne Gebhard, member of the European Parliament will visit our project. Together with members of the diplomatic staff of the German Embassy and the German Consulate General we will visit a township clinic and observe one of our HOPE community health worker before heading to have a look at the community of Blikkiesdorp and our involvement there. Before going to lunch and answering all open question a visit to the Ithemba ward will round-up the visit.
For HOPE Cape Town Association and Trust it is always a pleasure to have members of various parliaments and to give insight for those in the political arena. It is important that decision maker are informed about what is going on on grass root level. European visitors learn about the health system of South Africa first hand and experience the achievements as well as the shortcomings of our local system. That helps to assist in the bilateral talks between in this case Germany and South Africa and shapes the decision-making process how best to assist this country.
Also in this sense HOPE Cape Town Association and Trust is like a bridge bringing together and in touch two worlds which are quite apart from each other looking at the health system. Germans living here in South Africa know how to appreciate the health insurance Germany is offering to them and not surprisingly a lot of people making their living now in South Africa remain members of their respective health insurance company based in Germany. It is to hope that South Africa one day is ready to install a similar system. According to government sources such a system is considered and somehow in the pipeline, even nobody knows what it will cost to implement it.

Besides that the visitors will learn to know the variety of portfolios HOPE Cape Town Association and Trust is involved in: from grass root level to academic research.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Obamacare, turn the tide and enthusiasm @ AIDS Conference

Sometimes it is only one speech, one moment in time, and one can feel energized again. Sometimes it is just one speech, one moment in time and all tiredness is gone and one starts to focus again. For me, this moment in time happened this morning at the Plenary Session of the World AIDS Conference. Still tired from the long journey I listened to three keynote speaker which really got my mind going.

Introduced by the Nobel Price Laureate Francoise Barre-Sinoussi from France who was instrumental in discovering the HI virus, the Director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health (USA), Anthony S Fauci gave an overview where we are standing in the moment and why we are close to turning the tide of HIV/AIDS. He caught the attention of the audience in describing how sciences and community approach must go together and laid grounds how all facets of prevention and treatment, outreach and bio-approach can take the next steps in eradicating HIV and giving a whole new generation a chance to grow up without the treat of the pandemic.

Next was Phill Wilson, CEO of the Black AIDS Institute in Washington – black, gay and HIV positive. His charismatic speech described the plight of black Americans – specially also in the Washington area, where the prevalence rate amongst those with dark skin color are as high as in some areas of South Africa. He made it also very clear to the audience what “Obama-care” means for those US Americans without an expensive health insurance. I felt ashamed listening to his very personal stories thinking that the US American Catholic Bishops attacked the new health care system because amongst others family planing is included in Obama’s approach. Was there ever a thought of balancing all the “Catholic question marks” against the benefits for those, whose lives or deaths are depending on this new law?

Next Hillary R Clinton, who delivered a clear message that after 25 years and the last World AIDS Conference held in the USA in San Francisco her country is now more than ever committed to turn the tide and assist in having a next generation without fear of HIV and AIDS. She also declared her very solidarity to Melinda Gates and announced additional funds of her government for family planing but also circumcision and other projects.

All speakers the morning made it clear that the moment has come to combine all efforts to push the syndrome back, to use all tools to reduce the transmission to the magic “zero”. But also all acknowledged that there will be still quite some time till this goal is reached. But until then, those lesser and lesser in number, who get infected in the coming generation, should be able to receive treatment and support without any discrimination or stigmatization. And it was made clear that this means that all involved from community outreach via faith-based organizations till governments to reflect how one deals with those most in danger of contracting HIV: gay people, drug addicts, prostitutes. And the question remained open during the rest of the session as a challenge to all concerned: What does it mean to go into those fields many people feel uncomfortable to speak about? And specially for me as a Catholic priest remains that question: How do we deal with those moral minefields in today’s atmosphere of theology and pastoral care?

A lot to think of for the first day of the conference and the day has not ended yet…

Turning the tide – now..

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

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