God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Living in a junk state

I guess for those you knew the situation well enough, the downgrading of South Africa to “junk status” came at no surprise. A cabinet reshuffle at midnight, ministers axed not informed directly but learning it from the TV news does not indicate a rational and honest move of a president reflecting on his actions.
The knives are out – and once again history shows that a liberation army styled as a political party will fail the people ungraciously if the transformation of the structures which were needed during the struggle does not happen in time. The desperate attempts to quell the public dissent within the ruling party is witness to the unhappiness within and the tweets of government to stop civil society to voice their opinion adds a more comic note to the very serious situation.
South Africa can fall into the trap of inner conflict and anarchy if the stalemate between those who want to rectify the situation and those whose greed and / or ideology clouds their judgement is not resolved and decisions are made to get out from this road leading to nowhere.
It’s not only the president who has to go – all his cronies and blind followers from Gigaba to Mbalula, from Dlamini to Mtambi have to be relieved from their duties to rescue the situation. I think the most hurtful matter is that a black majority feels the disappointment that their own people failed them greatly. This generates automatically defenses which are not helpful in the situation and one should be reminded that worldwide liberation movements are bad politicians in the first and sometimes second generation.
The dream of the rainbow nation seems so far away for the time being, but not everything is lost. There are millions of people who are willing to work hard to change the situation and to make the peaceful transition in 1994 a permanent feature; radical economic transition will follow if radical does not mean corruption and entitlement but good school education, adequate university studies and the equal chance of everybody to develop entrepreneurial skills as well as the chance to climb the career ladder because of skills and not of skin color.  As much as one wishes for a quick transformation – if it should be sustainable it must be the result of hard work and not gifts and badly handled BEE.

Times like this call for all citizens to organize and assist government to develop a society. NGO’s play a vital part in this scenario and I hope and pray that HOPE Cape Town can play its role in this unruly times. Making sure that health service delivery is maintained on a dignified level may for some be not the first priority, but I believe that only the concert of all playing their particular part in times of uncertainty can bring a society through those times into a more stable period of living in the new South Africa.

Filed under: Africa, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Unstable situation

South Africa is in turmoil – not only statistics proof that crime is up and corruption a daily almost accepted occurrence. It seems that the country is going backwards, the dream of a rainbow nation is fading away and an ANC being a shadow of its former glory seems determined to let No 1, as President Zuma is often called ruin the country to junk status. The rot goes deep and the in-fights between treasury and president, the state capture through all the Gupta’s and other presidential friends, the formation of a new council giving Zuma more weight determining the future of SOE’s in South Africa – this all influences obviously also the work of NGO’s and other entities in the country. Focus is on the political and social high drama, money is spend on campaigns and court proceedings to get to the truthful facts and it seems that our society in need of healing is completely neglected in this battle of the powers in charge of running the country, the provinces, districts  and the municipalities. Who has thought that the local municipal elections help to clear the field – it seems the opposite: the fight for power and money has intensified and more questions are added every day instead of being satisfactory answered and then moved forward. The old saying that freedom fighters are bad politicians is proven correct again and history repeats itself in so many ways.
South Africa, as a BRICS state is also not anymore considered by many other countries as a purely “developing country”  which makes the trouble for an NGO even worse as fundraising becomes more difficult on an international platform.
There are many who seems to believe South Africa is doomed like so many other countries, others believe that this country will turn the tide soon and will rise like the phoenix out of the ashes. Whatever it may be – people at the bottom of society are continue to suffer now, the lack of proper education makes it easy for those in power to influence and manipulate the masses. The service deliver protests and the instability within police and state security, seemingly a playground for those in power allow for justice delayed in many cases for years.

This all makes it so much more important that the initiatives of churches, NGO’s and other non – governmental institutes are able to do their work and to assist in the daily life of those not able to defend themselves or having a future without help from outside their homes and families. Health and education are two pillars to be strengthened if South Africa wants to overcome this period of chaos. HOPE Cape Town is only one of many NGO’s trying to  aid in those fields and will remain steadfast in its approach to add to the healing of a wounded country – small contributions but many drops will fill finally the ocean – so another saying.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Internet worries to gay conversion – moments of a week’s work

Often when people make contact with me or it comes to a meeting they ask what a  typical week looks like for me as a priest and AIDS activist and the only thing I can say is: There is no typical week. A lot of time this week was spent on HOPE Cape Town affairs: we getting used to a new computer system which records every meeting, every result thereof and to do so, one needs some training and motivation to get used to it. How much bits and pieces of information gets lost when one not religiously records encounters, offers and follow-ups during the day? I can tell, it is amazing and the older one gets, the less one remembers with all the information streaming in every day. But HOPE Cape Town also changed this week service providers for the internet, email, web hosting etc. and as expected, there are some problems arising until everything is settled. Not being able to access email and information is very disruptive in our days and once again one is reminded how much we depend on it. Connected with this was a meeting with TBWA – a well-known marketing / advertising company in South Africa which does pro bono work for us. After re-designing our flyers it shifts now to our webpage which will be the next object of reflection and changes. All has to do with branding and getting the brand “HOPE Cape Town” known and identifiable in using all instruments available in this department. Doing good and getting the message across is so important , from an informational point of view as well as from the fundraising aspect. Another aspect of work this week was to go through the new employer handbook for HOPE Cape Town – we have to adhere to the South African labor law and this is indeed changing again and again. So the newest version was checked by labor lawyers and now we have to finalize it before it is handed out to the employees of HOPE Cape Town and forms then part of the work contract. On Wednesday I also met with all HOPE Community Health Workers on the issue of the “bonus” to be paid out at the end of the year. Obviously everybody likes a bonus to shop for all the Christmas presents, but a bonus is always at the discretion of the board. It also is a result of merit assessments – and once in a while one has to remind employees that a bonus is paid for exceeding expectations at work; not for doing what one is paid for anyhow. On the other hand it must be clear-cut how an assessment is done and what tick boxes are important to receive a bonus. Surely all important discussion points. HOPE Cape Town also secured it’s first official HOPE Cape Town Ambassador – watch the space, I will not tell here and now who was chosen and accepted gladly.
What else happened the last week?
The Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted a luncheon with MEC Alan Winde. As a member of the Regional Council I attended this event and listened carefully what Alan had to say about the state of affair when it comes to business and investment in the Western Cape and in South Africa. As new legislation comes into effect regarding BB BEE coming year it is also important for HOPE Cape Town to know the next changes we are BB BEE approved and we would like to keep it that way.
Bavaria and the Western Cape celebrating 20 years of partnership next year, so a meeting to find out how HOPE Cape Town can participate in these events in Bavaria and showcase its contribution towards the partnership.
A meeting with Rev Ryan from the Philippines saw discussions about HIV / AIDS support groups in this part of the world.  I learned that the Catholic Church in the Philippines supports conversion programs trying to get gay people straight – quite shocking for me – as this runs counter all academic research and adds to the burden to people anyhow threatened by HIV and AIDS and the difficulties to come out in a very Catholic environment. It surely adds to the shame people feel as being HIV positive and gay at the same time as it implies that there is something wrong with them besides the punishment of HIV. Somehow the expression “dark middle ages” came to my mind. Conversion as a possibility to get rid of being who I am is on an ethical level as bad as criminalizing is on a legal level. I once again realized how much is still to do….
Exhalation of the Cross – the Catholic Feast celebrated with the Catholic Community in Belgravia ended a week – being reminded of all the crosses people carry and are burdened with and celebrating our believe that the good message of the kingdom of God is told to all and everybody – unconditional love, that’s what we are called for.  And that is a good starting point for the coming week which will bring me to Europe again for a couple of days.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

HIV – curse or blessing?

For most people, on first side a pandemic is surely seen as a curse translating into sickness. In the case of HIV- without treatment – it turns into full-blown AIDS and consequently death. Who does not remember the eighties: a quick and cruel death for young people, killed in the prime of their lives.
HIV also means evolution: a small little bug jumps onto a different host and kills the host. Not intentionally of course and it will take a quite some time, maybe a couple of hundred years to develop into a symbiosis which lets bug and host live peacefully together. Otherwise it’s a dead-end for evolution and will at a certain point cease to exist.
HIV is a challenge: In the 1980’s the scientific world raced to find an answer what causes the syndrome. To isolate the bug, to find anti-bodies and consequently a test to determine infection and last but not least to develop first medications working to prevent full-blown AIDS took its time and toll. But HIV is also a challenge for every human being: transmission via bodily fluids means it touches on one of our strongest drive and urge: sexuality. And who controls this desire controls humans – just look into the history of religion and the significance of the control of sexuality via faith.
HIV mixes categories normally separated in society: youth and death. Death is anyhow so often hidden in modern society; now associated with youth and radical eradicating the beauty of it destroys the unspoken view how society works and develops. It changed the rules of engagement on that level dramatically and still does it in developing countries.
HIV means to open up to people living and loving in same sex relationships. Coming from the dark and hidden corners of social life gay people suddenly stood in the limelight of society. HIV and AIDS was part of a sometimes cruel outing process. In our days HIV is globally not anymore associated with homosexuality but the pandemic, almost as a side effect, opened up society to look at different life styles. And without any doubt the solidarity in gay circles in the beginning of the pandemic for their infected friends and partners was an impressive show of compassion and left traces which transformed into signs of normality and acceptance for gay love in the Western hemisphere. Obviously this triggers an antidote from the radical – fundamentalist side of society, mainly coming from the USA in an evangelical form even telling Africans what African culture means in Africa.
HIV is clearly a challenge for politicians and it was HIV which was put on the agenda as the first medical condition dealt with by the UN. This opened doors for other discussions on a global base like on Malaria or TB or all the other forgotten sickness of Africa and South America. We were reminded that they also kill millions a year and that they are in need of being addressed properly. The Global AIDS Fund was a first instrument of tackling a medical challenge on a global scale and not via bi-lateral negations which normally don’t’ see the full picture and are rather small –minded.
HIV means a challenge for society. While in Germany the campaign “Give AIDS no chance” with the commitment of the entire government prevented the pandemic to get into full swing, other countries and governments did not wake up to respond to the treat timely. The bible is right, that the sin of the fathers, in this case the sin of neglect comes onto the children and grandchildren. South Africa, but also Swaziland, is an example of failure with the result of hundred thousands of death and a generation born and plagued by HIV. What a challenge for the social coherence of society.
HIV translates into a challenge for religion, for our faith. Just a look at Ronald Reagan, who refused to act on the first reports of the new disease as it seemly “only” targeted gay people. His faith told him that they anyhow did not live according to God’s moral code; somehow no real action was needed. It reminds us also in this context of all those clerics calling the HIV pandemic the punishment of God for Sodom and Gomorrah in our times.
HIV is not a punishment but a clear sign of the time to reflect on our Christian theology – it has shown clearly that answering new questions with old answer do not serve humanity. The opposite is true: it endangers life. The question of protection cannot be answered with the reply given by authorities quite some time earlier on the question of procreation.
And how about the single human being infected with the HI Virus?
The challenges and reactions are as different as people are different: shock, disbelieve, despair, give–up mentality, defiance, hope….
What is indeed an almost general rule I discovered with people living positively is that after the balance in life is found again, there is a new sense for health and the value of life. HIV has shown how fragile life is and treatment has given almost the opportunity for a second chance in life. People infected mostly have a peace treaty with their boarder – always present even when tested undetectable. There is also the sense of gratitude and somehow, even if it sounds absurd, it changes from being a personal curse into a blessing. And I strongly believe that church should be and could be promoter of this transition, personal and in communities where stigma could be transformed into a blessing. The Catholic Student organisation of South Africa maintains in one of their publications that people living with HIV cannot live life to the fullest as stipulated in John 10.10.
They are wrong: God is giving everyone in his unconditional love the possibility to life their life to the fullest – for him, sexual identity or preference is not a hindrance nor is race or income or any other ability or disability or HIV or AIDS.
You will be a blessing for others – this promise of God applies to everybody who lives and loves with or without HIV.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Worth reading..

Another look into the world or print today with worthwhile news and interesting articles:

The scares of Manhood tells the story of “proving manhood, alcohol and peer pressure of a South African youngster. Click here

Statistics about condom distribution, vaccinations and TB in South Africa are found here

Read about the reduction of bacterial vaginosis and other vaginal threats here

LGBT to be killed like mosquitoes – so the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh in an televised address. More here

Outrage about the imminent enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda which will also undermine HIV prevention. Read more here

Motsoaledi announces free new contraception in South Africa – more info here

The Roman Catholic Church is starting to reflect on families – read here what blunt assessment the Japanese bishops have on this topic

Enjoy the read.

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

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
7 months to go.

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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