God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

IAS conference 2017

Fragments of thoughts and impressions

It is my first IAS conference I have attended and compared with the World Aids conference it is a smaller crowd: round about 6000 people from all over the world coming in Paris together to discuss developments in the fields of HIV and Aids.

The first impression is that the conference is much more academic and discerning – it feels that most talks and presentations are indeed on a much higher academic level then at local Aids Conferences or the big world conference.

I am staying at a hotel outside Paris in Nanterre a commune in the Hauts-de-Seine department, the western suburbs of Paris. It is located some 11 km north-west of the centre of Paris. It feels strange – and from the beginning I can feel people have to live in a way which does not support human interaction – it feels cold, just doing the job of housing people without consideration on the human desire to live in a nice and friendly environment. It’s a sort of shock for somebody living in South Africa – it is strange but it feels like as soul-less place. The hotel is situated on top of a commuter train tunnel and station – every now and then one can feel the coming and going of a train while laying in bed.
So I guess all is there to sustain living and working, there are high rising buildings and all kind of services, but the thought I take with is that I can understand such suburbs create problems and even violence.

The mix of people here is amazing – mostly and certainly from the African region of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco – it feels non-European in a European way – figure it out what it means.

And travelling to the conference centre – using the train and the metro – being part of a huge crowd in the morning and evening entering and exiting the dark alleys of the underground world – being part of the endless movements of people pushing their way through the crowd to reach their daily destiny – it is breath-taking – but not in the usual sense of the word. I definitely recall all my blessings living with some space and lots of day light in South Africa.

The conference itself is for a non scientific person sometimes difficult to follow – but I guess it is not about the exact details of every molecule one has to understand, the sheer feeling of understanding the principle – the idea behind all the details – the sometimes keen thoughts and trials and errors are a fascinating mental adventure – it stimulates my brain and forces me to read and study and “google”  – I have to admit that is a great experience to be beamed for a while into an environment really challenging you on knowledge and understanding.
But I believe that people running organisations must have at least a grasp about the background work done and the driving forces behind new developments before they reach the grass-root scene to be put into practice. Fruitful communication, bridging the gap between science and grass-root as HOPE Cape Town is trying to achieve on a daily base means for those in charge constant learning and communication with all spheres of their work environment.

Last but not least it was great meeting people from other countries and engaging in discussions – learning from each other and about each other and feeling the compassion of trying to rid the world of a viral onslaught. And yes, there is of course also lots of business – lots of calculation, but even there, you very often sense that those being employed in the big pharmaceutical companies understand that there is humanity needed in business. The connectivity of the global village, the threat that a virus can easily come and bite those far away helped indeed to change some of the attitudes which governed such entities a decade ago. Surely there is still lots to optimize and clarify – a balance must be put into place between commerce and humanity but I guess the battles of treatment have brought some clarity and movement into the field. Well, a watchful eye seems to be always necessary when it comes to that topic.

I will leave Paris tomorrow with lots of new understanding about the work done in the laboratories of this world. I leave proud knowing that our very board member of HOPE Cape Town, Prof Mark Cotton co-chaired the CHER study which produced one of the most published results of the conference: the child for 9 years in remission after being treated as a baby. I leave motivated knowing how many people dedicated their lives and career to fight back a pandemic which brought so much death and sorrow onto human mankind. It simply feels great to be part of a movement which has the goal to end a pandemic and give people a chance to live life and sexuality without fear. To live and to love to the utmost in their lifetime.

The only question I was wondering – how many other priests or clergy have been to this conference – not that it really matters but it would be nice to know that more of my fellow brothers are engaged on this level in a matter of live and death for millions in this world.

 

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Orlando

13407203_10154457792963643_1199818576249987981_nTraveling four weeks within the USA to establish HOPE Cape Town USA and visiting five states was quite a mission, but a wonderful opportunity to meet great people, to learn so much about this great country being plagued with so many problems from #blacklifematters, #stopHIVcriminalization to #prayfororlando.

I must admit that the latter really made me think and touched me in a way which I have not really fully understood. There is first the sheer unbelievable feeling to wake up to news of a mass shooting in Orlando – a single perpetrator killing 49 people and wounding another 25 before being shot himself. That alone makes you think about the gun laws in the USA, the unhealthy relationship between the freedom to carry a weapon as a constitutional right and a symbol of independence. The chocolate “Kinderueberraschung”, the chocolate egg with the surprise for kiddies is not allowed in  the USA because it is deemed dangerous for children, but you can buy an assault riffle without any problem. And to make this whole story even more confusing: people on a terror warning list are not able to fly with any airline in the USA, but they are allowed to purchase any weapon they desire. Logic is left in the dark and common sense seems to have disappeared.
But in Orlando, there are more layers – it was in a gay club where people were killed. A presumed safe place where LGBTI folks could relax and feel loved and appreciated amongst themselves turned into a deadly trap. An anyhow marginalized community received another deadly hit again and I must admit that the outpouring of condolences left a somehow bitter taste. Being it politicians or religious leaders voicing shock and condolences – I can’t help but notice the bigotry in their words having words of comfort for those they normally judge and put in a corner of sin and  wrongdoing.
I also learned about the story of “Pulse”, the club hit by this hate crime. The name is a reminder of a person having died from Aids related complications – the sister opened the club to remember his life and to create a place of joy and safety for the LGBTI community mostly hit in the USA from the HIV pandemic.

It is said that the perpetrator has pledged is loyalty to ISIS which brings me to the third and forth layers I am contemplating in the moment. The radicalization of people and the darker flip side of social media. It seems that the world becomes more radical, be it on governmental level or in social life: if you don’t get what you want or you disagree with your neighbor it seems that violence is the way to go for most people. Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq are examples but also looking into Africa, into South Africa where the local elections are due in August: how many counsellors and politicians have been killed in recent weeks and months, just as a result of power play – even within a party? Paris and Brussels and now only yesterday in England MP Jo Cox,  violence and killings mark more and more the political or ideological battle for minds and hearts.

And social media play their part in this big times. How easy is it to bring graphic contents into the world and to distribute it to every corner of it. How easy is it today to sit at home and being radicalized by watching violent videos almost like bloody reality shows. But would censorship be the alternative like the SABC, the South African National Broadcaster having decided to ban all violent protest from airing in the news?

A last layer (of many more in my mind) to mention is the realization that being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be deadly. An old wisdom newly internalized after a trip where everywhere I go there is gun violence and innocent bystanders are in danger. So life is precious and should be lived every minute up to the fullest.

The last four weeks have indeed triggered a lot of contemplation and reflection on how the world ticks in the moment and how much I want to tick with this world in the same tune – or even not. I can even sense a mild form of radicalization, not violent at all but being more conscious about who I am, what I stand for, what is important in life. And that is not only due to all things mentioned but also thanks to the wonderful people I had the pleasure to meet or to meet again: our newly appointed directors of HOPE Cape Town USA: Stacie, Shirley and Joe; Dan and Claudia in New Jersey, Veronica, Inga, Khadija, Tim and Rebaux in California, Rev Neil from the Cathedral of HOPE in Dallas/Texas; Bruce and Diane in Chicago and all those who came to the meet & greet event in Dallas/Texas.

Coming back to the beginning of this blog: HOPE Cape Town USA is established and we file now for the federal tax exemption status. If you want to know more, please visit http://www.hopecapetownusa.com

 

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town USA, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Good news from Swaziland…

The results from a nationally representative HIV incidence study in Swaziland indicate that the national rate of new HIV infections is 2.38% among adults ages 18-49. This figure, comparable to the 2009 UNAIDS estimate of 2.66% for Swaziland adults ages 15-49, suggests that the HIV epidemic in Swaziland may have begun to stabilize in the past few years. To read more about the interesting research go to:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/248404.php

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

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2018

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

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