God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

PreP – one does not hear a lot about it…

“We don’t know the side effects of this drug. It’s too expensive. Insurance won’t cover it. It hasn’t been studied enough. It will encourage slutty behavior. And why the hell don’t people just use condoms?”
Sounds familiar? That has been the objections raised to the oral contraceptive progesterone (“The Pill”), approved by the FDA 54 years ago. And it seems that with Truvada as an alternative method to prevent a HIV infection it started similar. Pre-exposure prophylaxis would add to more sexual contacts, critics claimed and they painted the picture of orgies and inhibited sex lives. In an article at TheBody.com Mark S King tries to tackle all those concerns and to come up with a new assessment about the drug and its benefits and disadvantages as a prophylaxis.
To read more go to TheBody.com.

Damon L Jacobs from New York tackles this topic from a more practical side. He decided to take Truvada as PrEP since 2011 and reports on his findings in an article on this blog. As he is also a psychotherapist and safe sex educator in NY and SF it is indeed an interesting read. For more go to the blog.

The question is obviously whether PrEp would also function in South Africa and what the financial implications would be, if insurance companies and even government would consider this to be offered on a wider scale. This is certainly up to a debate which we have to start sooner than later.

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

From April 2013 1 pill per day..

Antiretroviral drugs

Antiretroviral drugs (Photo credit: DFID – UK Department for International Development)

 

This week the national Health Department of South Africa announced another major change in the treatment of HIV. Gone will be the days when AIDS patients will have to sort through a combination of pills every day – morning, day and evening – to control their HIV infection. As from April next year, patients will have the convenience of taking just one pill a day, which contains all three antiretroviral drugs that they need. This “fixed dose combination” – packaged in a single tablet will assist over 80% of the 1.8 million patients taking antiretrovirals in making their life and intake of medication much easier. Read here more about this great development in an article by Khopotso Bodibe.

 

 

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

World AIDS Day around the corner

Once again it is short before World AIDS Day and as usual on such a day and before, the media and the politicians have their say about success and failures of HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention work, vaccine studies and all the rest. Once a year the world is made aware of the syndrome killing still scores of people and triggering despair, tears, hopelessness, desperation but also a willingness to fight and not to give up. Have we done enough in the time since the last World AIDS Day? Has research been successful in coming closer to a vaccine? Have fewer people been exposed to the virus? Is there more prevention willingness and treatment options in the global village? Well, according to UNAIDS yes, we have done major steps in the right direction, but we also know how close we are to fail millions of people because of lack of funding. The economic meltdown, the financial crisis, the Euro battle captures our minds and hearts and I wish one would worry as much about those suffering from HIV or TB or Malaria or any other of theses for poor people mostly life threatening diseases. While the USA and other Countries spend millions and millions a day for the war in Afghanistan or undercover in Syria or elsewhere research and the good thing s for live have still to struggle for funding. The world has indeed not learned the lesson of holding up the dignity of people, instead it pays for the destruction of land, people and material goods.

While I appreciate the progress and worry about the still high numbers of non-treated people and new infections, I cannot be silent about the injustice which is reflected in the battle against HIV and AIDS. And this pandemic is only an example that we are as human mankind still far away from getting the values right we proudly proclaim in our national constitutions: that life and dignity is to be protected at all times and all costs as it is the highest value we have.

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

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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