God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

8 policemen and 11 days

What do you expect from the police when you are robbed and all your belongings you carry with you are stolen? Right: to go to the police station and lay charge and get a case number. That’s the theory but it seems that even that simple truth is not always working properly in South Africa.

One of our HOPE Community Health Workers was robbed on the street and with all her belongings also the new tablet just received was taken from her. The tablet, a donation from the Consulate General in Cape Town was insured and so it seemed to be a clear-cut case besides the trauma of being robbed: to go to the Police Station and report the incident and to get the case number for the insurance company. Not so with the South African Police Force. According to them, a tablet can only be reported stolen if one has the number of the SIM Card inserted into the tablet. But what happens if you don’t have a SIM card because your tablet should work only with wireless and there is no need for a SIM card. Well, according to the police their form has a field requiring the SIM card number and the consequences are clear: no SIM Card – no robbery case number.
One would think that policemen are able to think outside the box, but it took 8 different policemen during 11 days to archive the goal: getting a case number – and it needed finally the threat of our outreach facilitator to camp inside the police station until she gets the case number to make it happen.

What do we learn of it: Giving a police officer a form to fill in can be dangerous in South Africa… and there is a long way to go to get people to think on their own or to apply common sense. One of the most dangerous pitfalls in the training and education of South Africa is that repetition is all it need to pass – to think of your own is not only not required but even not wanted. The consequences are obvious and annoying to those having just gotten out of a dangerous situation and then not able to lay charge because of formalities. About police I can share another story just coming to my mind.

I remember being stopped by a policewoman in the North-West Province for not stopping correctly at a four – way stop. I was asked to step out of the car and the fine form was filled in. Question of the policewoman: “What is your profession?” Answer: “I am a priest.” Question: “Is that a profession?” My answer: “Yes” – Follow up question: “How do you spell that?”
Funny? – Well, depends how you see it – but it is better than having to buy chicken wings for hungry police officers to get off the hook while stopped for a traffic offense in Johannesburg.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

PEPFAR and the Catholic Church

A street in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.

A street in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am visiting Johannesburg and a Catholic institution asking for assistance in a difficult situation. The Catholic Church in South Africa has mainly relied on one big sponsor in the last years: PEPFAR, the US American President’s emergency fund. This was done for several reasons; one being that in the beginning it excluded any condom distribution or work with prostitution as a precondition for receiving these funds. There has been very much debate around it at World AIDS Conferences at times as this resulted in some countries showing a clear increase of infections again. Nevertheless, with the money lots of good was also done, amongst others instituting the distribution of antiretrovirals for thousands of South Africans.
The funds now drying up and so the Church is forced to transfer its patients to the governmental facilities with different results. As specially in Johannesburg also quite a big number of asylum seekers still without papers are among those catered for, these people would anyhow not be eligible for continuation of treatment in a primary health care facility.
So the need for special funding to at least get one doctor looking after those patients is needed and hopefully there is a way to support this for the new year.
From what I have seen and heard it seems that for many patients it is a bitter reality check: coming from church run clinics which really went the extra mile for a patient to ensure his or her health, governmental facilities are mostly overcrowded and not able to cope in this way with their patients. Experts fear, that people will be lost in transition or get lost in transition.This shows once again how important the support of the Catholic Church in providing medical services has been and it is to decry that lack of funding forces closure and that – at least in Johannesburg – the government now refuses to deliver antiretroviral medication as a matter of principle to NGO run medical facilities even if they could continue – forcing so the transfer in a way too often not beneficial for the patients.

With a generation of young people being born HIV positive and with the treat of resistance looming like we have seen it with TB, this country needs the continuation of support from all corners of society. Even if there is the growing impression that we have conquered and beaten the deadly pandemic, it might be too early to come to this conclusion. So it is really to hope that also the churches try their utmost to continue as many services as possible to give those infected and affected all necessary support.

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

Potential Vaccine Breakthrough for HIV

HIV Particle

HIV Particle (Photo credit: AJC1)

A new discovery related to South Africa could prove a major stepping-stone toward developing an effective HIV vaccine. In this country, two women’s immune systems reacted to changes in  HIV cells by producing potent “broadly neutralizing antibodies” that could kill 88 percent of HIV found throughout the world. To read more about this very interesting news click here.

To read the University of the Witwatersrand news announcement click here.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sex worker denied PTMCT

At a conference in Johannesburg a sex worker spoke of how she was detained by the police when she was pregnant. Being HIV-positive, she was forced to default on her medication to prevent her from transmitting the infection to her unborn child. “The worst thing for me was being denied my ARV’s when I was on PMTCT (prevention of mother to child HIV transmission programme). I was pregnant and denied this treatment for the whole weekend. I felt it is the worst thing because it was about the child inside of me who could have gotten infected”, she said.

Read the whole article here

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

03.10.2010 Sunday afternoon

Sunday afternoon – and my last service as a supply priest for Belhar. I must admit that I have enjoyed going there the last Sundays and to experience one of the South African parishes – so different from the once in Germany. The question I have in mind is: how can the church remain relevant for the people in the next 20 years. Eying to Europe one can see how societies and with it churches develop and I am convinced that one can learn to prevent some of the “European developments’ for the local church.

Besides the church work, there will be also a decision on the future of the POZ initiative catering for priests and religious who are themselves HIV positive. After the Southern African Bishop’s Conference can in the moment not see any need to set up a special offer for those infected working in the church, there are consultations to see how one can overcome obstacles and offer a pastoral service, the members of the working group believe is necessary and essential. Turning stigma into a blessing is important and combined with a process of healing and self acceptance it would be an important service the church could offer their own employees. But of course it is a sensitive field and I feel that we have to do more convincing to get those responsible in the church hierarchy on board.

The coming week will see not only trips to Durban and Johannesburg, but also visitors connected to the Romantic Hotel Group in Europe, the farewell for Rainer, who will find his final resting place here in Cape Town, meetings for the HOPE Cape Town Trust and HOPE Cape Town Association and as usual lots for preparation work for all things lying ahead.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , ,

14th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2020

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