God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

26.08.009 a new day…

8 in the morning, a new day is beginning to blossom, the first sunshine is visible and promising a clear sunny Cape Town winter day. Lets hope that it stays like that.
Every day is like an empty sheet of paper and it is mainly up to me, what will be scribbled on this sheet during the day. I only can hope that one can recognise my handwriting at the end of the day.

Every day anew we have the change to live our own life, to change our perceptions, to live more fully, to take on opportunities, to better our lives and that of others. So many opportunities lying ahead. Which will I take, which will I not take up and maybe lose forever?

Every day is a new gift – and every day might be my last day, my last sunrise, my last meeting with people, my last casual chat… nobody knows when this day will break, but living every day as it would be the last is surely the best way of preparing for this very last day as a human on earth.

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03.08.2009 positive blogging…

It is amazing to find out more and more people blogging about their positive lifestyles and it is encouraging to read about it.  Most of them are doing it anonymously and it is understandable amidst the fear of stigmatisation and the often neurotic way, people react to a positive person. Why is that so? Because amazingly I have the impression, that it is always the others, who would be vulnerable to catch the virus. I have had discussions with people having multiple unprotected sex, but they were still convinced that they carefully selected their partners and that the risk of contracting the virus was almost zero. Isn’t that amazing?
An unforgettable moment in my life was last year visiting a friend in Thailand, who obviously was quite sick when I arrived. Knowing his lifestyle I spend days to convince him to visit a clinic and to let him test himself. On a Saturday evening at 10pm I got him into Silom community clinic and pushed my way with him through the staff trying to close down. Three rapid tests confirmed my suspicion and reflecting with him on what was happening, it was amazing for me to understand that he – deep inside himself – knew, what was wrong with him, but simply refused to face the reality of a test. God knows alone how many infections could have been avoided if he would have gone earlier. But the fear of stigma, of getting sick, of being rejected prevented him for a long time to go for the test. Understandable, but it showed me again how stigma adds to more infections and to early death as one starts treatment consequently sometimes too late.

Making things worse in this case, his CD 4 count was still to high to be able to receive treatment (over 200 copies p/ml).. so he had to wait another half a year before being able to start treatment.  These are the things driving me in my work in this field. The stigma, the unnecessary suffering until being eligible for treatment in a 3rd world setting and more and more the restriction of travel for people living with the virus. We are so advanced in treatment in Europe – but we are still miles away from treating HIV as a condition which does not need to end in discrimination or stigmatization of some kind.

We have to work with those affected and infected in an intensive way to change these settings, which lead at the end to more suffering and more infections – completely unnecessary. And we have to work constantly with ourselves to understand our own perceptions, fears, prejudices to convert them into a loving understanding without judgment.

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

02.08.2009 Living with HIV

I have added on the blogroll “living with hiv – as it happens”. I find this blog a very important one as it shows without attitude or drama how life develops after a positive test result. The blog is anonymous and this shows again, how difficult it is to get it out. Here in South Africa, the Treatment Action Campaign advocates the “coming out” of HIV positive people and sometimes I have the impression, that is is almost done in a militant and pushy way. I don’t agree with it at all. Living with the virus is as intimate as faith – and it needs time and trust to open up and to talk about things which are so close to myself. Everybody has the right to be silent and to decide himself or herself, to whom to reveal the news.

People can react sometimes quite funny – for me as a counsellor it is important to advice a newly diagnosed person to look out for one person, with whom he can share the news and with whom he can discuss his joys and sufferings, his grievance and anxiety related to the virus occupying parts of his or her body. It is indeed a roller coaster to get used to the virus, to get used to treatment, and to be able to live a life to the fullest.

I feel often sad seeing how prejudice creates stigmatisation, discrimination – there is still a long way to go until we just accept a person living with the virus without even considering what could have gone wrong. It really does not matter in my opinion how and when somebody was infected – it is for me as a person, a Christian, a priest completely uninteresting – the only duty I have is to encourage somebody to live, to experience the unconditional love of God and to make the best out of his or her life.

Here in South Africa, we also have AIDS orphanages, and I always tend to flip out when I hear people saying, they want to see the innocent AIDS babies and clearly trying to distinguish between them and those, who have acquired the virus during adulthood. First of all there are no AIDS babies, but babies living with the virus. And secondly there is no innocence or guilt when dealing with a person living with the virus.  We should stop even using such words – and leave the morals at home somewhere in the corner where they don’t disturb our judgement and our commitment towards other people. Lets forget about judging people – and just embrace them as they are. This is the way, we also want to be dealt with … at least the way, I want to be dealt with…

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , ,

20.07.2009 Priorities or do I miss out something??

Reading about the trillions being suddenly invested in big companies and the economic sector – it seems there is no problem to print the money and “stabilize” the economics and bring it out of recession.
Millions of people dying every day, because the lack of food, the lack of clean water, the lack of medical attention.. and we have to “battle” for every dollar.

And now the first banks report great earnings, big bonus will be paid out again.. business as usual is launching again….  Nothing learned? No nothing really learned! We covered the wounds but avoided the operation..
Human mankind can sometimes be a real” disgrace” for being a son or daughter of God.

Can somebody tell me who’s priorities are wrong??
Or maybe it is, because those in politics and economics, who have been part of the problem, are indeed part of the solution again, which means in consequence, that they will become part of the problem again. You can call it the “circle of life”.

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09.07.2009 I always have known how and who you are..

End of last year I became to realise that my time as a chaplain to the German speaking Catholic Community in Cape Town will come to an end. My immediate superior had left his post and now the rules had been changed within hours. In my discussion with one of my superiors discussing the matter, one of his sentences stroke me with full force and is still in my mind. Arguing, that he will do everything possible to terminate my contract, he reasoned his decision with the sentence: ” I always have known how and who you are…”.

Wow, I thought – this is hardcore stuff.. Even I discover every day new things in my life, and even those who I belive I know pretty well – they suprise me again and again.
Such a statement is the end of any communication – as it closes any possible way to learn something new about somebody. Such a statement is on the highest level of arrogance, as you must be like God to be so knowledgeable about another person. But I guess it judges more the person saying it in many ways.
I think being a human being and also being a Christian means always to have an open mind towards other people. It means to never put somebody in a box and then throw the key away for all times. Yes, we have our struggle with people, we fight with each other, we are of different opinion – and sometimes we even don’t speak to each other for a shorter or longer while.
But knowing ourselves and how we can change, and how we can be misinterpreted by others – we should be able to allow others also to grow and to develop.  Working in a parish or working with people living with the virus – without that basic rule of giving each other space to grow and to have the humility to accept this, the work would not be possible.

For me, this one sentence is accompanying me since the beginning of the year – and it made me reflect a lot of my perception of people. Time to throw all the boxes away which I have collected in my life to categorize other people. But I also feel sorry for those, who’s own perception has indeed become their very own self made reality.

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