God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

Difficult times for an US adventure

Preparing for my trip to the USA in March I wonder how the present situation is playing out. The messages coming from US soil are divers, hostile, confusing and at least irritating. Having founded HOPE Cape Town USA last year, nobody could envisage that the situation is getting so different in such a short time. It seems that a split is going through society, either complete and utter praise or complete and utter condemnation on the style of government in which the new president conducts business.
What does this mean for a NGO trying to bridge between the USA and South Africa – to tackle common problems, specifically HIV, AIDS and children, but also related problems? There are two possible scenarios: either people in the USA are so preoccupied with the internal battles that international affairs are on the back-burner; or the opposite effect will be seen: people want to make a point that “America first” is counteracted by “humanity first”.

Be it as it will be – the uncertainty does take its toll on planing and preparation for the work ahead. It creates more question marks than answers – but maybe the only answer is to go ahead, meet people in person and try to make the world a better place cutting through the rough waves of politics and anxieties. Maybe the joint venture can be a sign for those involved to remind themselves that the world is bigger than the tenure of a president and that focusing on the men in power might feed their egos as they crave for attention.

Maybe a bit “business as usual” is needed to maintain sanity in these turbulent days – showing practically what counts in life and for the good of the world. I am determined to continue walk my way with all those of good will – showing that “America first” maybe means “America first when it comes to humanity and service”. Let’s never forget that those we try to assist are those who need the compassion especially in such uncertain times – those in poverty, those at the bottom of society; those sick and thorn apart by daily problems need all help possible.

I am looking forward to meet my friends in the USA and to continue working for the hope we are called to be for others in need.

Filed under: Africa, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town USA, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , ,

World Aids Conference 2016

“What do you expect from the World Aids Conference 2016?” is one of the common questions asked in the last week. Well, what does one expect from a conference with more than 15000 participants in a country which was hit the most from the pandemic. Insights into new developments? I guess the most important factor for me is being able to get an overview first hand what is going on the world of HIV and AIDS around the globe. It is indeed the direct contact with activists and researchers where I learn the most  – while listening to their experience and insights – and which makes the trip to Durban worth time and effort. Communication, exchange, but also the feeling not to be alone in the fight against the pandemic leaves on with the resolve of continuing the work one is doing locally.

Durban 2016 is so different from the previous World Aids Conference held in Durban in 2000. At that time it was despair, hopelessness and the ignorance of politics which ruled the situation in South Africa. It was the time when HOPE Cape Town was born out of the need to stop the dying of children and parents. So Durban 2016 is also about achievements, about the millions on treatment, the figure of new mother-to-child transmission slowly going towards zero and the great feeling, that we from HOPE Cape Town have been part of this unbelievable journey of hope and frustration, often changing first place in the matter of an eye-blink.

There is still so much to do – the transmission rate in South Africa is still scary high, other countries also register more new infections and a vaccine seems to be still far away. There are still millions of South Africans dealing with stigma and discrimination on various levels. There is still so much stigma attached, so much fear and anxiety when it comes to dealing with HIV and Aids. We are definitely not there where we want to be, and the next 10 years will be crucial in the attempt to make a new generation of zero new infections a reality. Given the moment state of affair in South Africa, all the service delivery protests, corruption, political ignorance and the still wounded society there is more than a question mark to put behind the question: Will we achieve a victory?  HIV is more than a medical syndrome, it has to do with poverty, with hunger, with despair, with job creation, with investments, with intact families, with proper sex education, with the end of religious bias towards moral questions – and obviously when looking at it globally the amount of resources will depend on how governments want to spend their money. Looking at madness of violence and terrorism, racism and war it seems that HIV will continue to have only a backseat. And this might compromise the achievements reached till today.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Medical and Research, Politics and Society, Reflection, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brexit

BrexitAnother hit onto the South African economy with consequences not good for the country, but I wonder why people are so excited about the outcome. The EU is indeed in a “cul-de-sac” on many levels – a union, based on economic desires while ignoring social questions and ruled by politicians often parked at the EU by national governments not wanting to entertain them further in national politics. Adding to it an expansion to conquer the rests of the dissolved UdSSR and growing at a rate which is unhealthy –  and looking at the administration more than a challenge; disaster has now struck with the Brexit.
Great Britain, anyhow always a nation wanting to have everything on an extra plate related to EU matters has decided by popular vote to exit. Xenophobia and narrow national interests, political lies and the anxiety of the ordinary people not understanding or even grasping the complexity of the global village in our days – all this was and is a toxic environment for national referendums.
It has to be seen whether this not means the end of Great Britain as such – with Scotland and Northern Ireland going separate ways on a long-term run.
But: The sun has come up again the next day and once again it has been demonstrated that life is flowing – also political life and social life. Borders, nations, national feelings are bound to a certain point in history and nothing remains for eternity.

It has to be seen whether politicians wake up and realize that only looking for re-election without any vision – and the courage to go for such a vision – means the end of politics as we have known it. Add to it the flood of social media and permanent news coverage which changes the landscape of decision-making and social development substantially. We are entering a new era and it seems that human mankind is not prepared or ready for the challenges of a modern and multi leveled connected global village.
For us South Africans it remains a sort of consolation that politics not only in our country is becoming more and more an affair of irrationality and madness. What is worrying is the fact that at the end the ordinary citizen pays the bill for all this – and the vulnerable, the powerless, the poor are those suffering more while most of those in charge creating the chaos have secured their benefits long-term.
NGOMore injustice is the underlying consequence of political incompetency as we see it in Europe, but also here in South Africa as in Africa on a growing scale. This makes the work of grass-root projects so much more important – NGO’s assisting those losing out in the realities of today. And if you look at movement like St Egidio you might learn that maybe it will be such initiatives from the base of society which can bring the development needed for more peace and prosperity for all living on this planet. But one has not to look that far – any small NGO – where ever they are – counter and mitigate the gaps, politics is leaving behind in their struggle for power and influence. They are much needed in our days.

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

May days and US blues

It is the time of the year – May and the prestigious Ball of HOPE is on again – this year with Nevio Passaro as a special guest coming from Germany to entertain those lucky to have a ticket. A sold out event is always a dream for the organizers and also this year we are indeed full to capacity. The Southern African – German Chamber of Commerce and HOPE Cape Town celebrating 15 years of the Ball of HOPE, 15 years of HOPE Cape Town Association and 10 years of HOPE Cape Town Trust. Time is indeed flying and it seems yesterday when we started humbly with opening the ward G7 at Tygerberg Children’s Hospital. Was it at the beginning important to have a ward dedicated to infectious diseases and to administer treatment – in those days government were battling anti-retrovirals as poison – so is the scenario now completely different. The mother to child transmission rate is down to 5% but could be pressed further down to under 1%. People on anti-retroviral treatment are staying healthy longer and longer – but still HIV is a major contributor to the death toll of South Africa. All the prevention work has not cut down the new infection rate the way it was expected – so the status quo of HIV in South Africa is still remaining a mixed one.
15 years of HOPE Cape Town Association also means 15 years of support from so many different people, some being members of the HOPE family since interception of the project, others have come and gone and many are joining in our days. They are all a blessing for those HOPE Cape Town is able to assist in getting a life back with the possibility of a good future.
But “balls” are not falling from heaven – preparation is hard work and bringing together great entertainment, good food and all the logistics coming with it seems every year to be a never-ending story. That the AGM of the HOPE Cape Town Trust is the very same day of the Ball of HOPE makes this day even more challenging.

If you live in South Africa welcome to watch Expresso Show on SABC 2 Friday, 6th of May in the morning and watch Katlego Maboe, our HOPE Cape Town Goodwill Ambassador performing with Nevio Passaro from Germany. So you get a glimpse of what to expect at the Ball of HOPE 2016.

But May is not only marked by this local event, HOPE Cape Town is adding a new sister entity called “HOPE Cape Town USA” which was founded in Dallas Texas some weeks ago. I will fly to the first directors meeting mid May and if you read this blog and live in or around Dallas, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or New Jersey and you want to help, assist, meet up – just let me know and we will get in touch. The HOPE family is growing and being a HOPE ambassador is a worthwhile cause. Spread the word, make connections, support those living here in South Africa with little hope for a bride future. HIV, TB and related illnesses, connected with poverty, unemployment, weak education is a recipe for disaster, not only in a personal life but at the end for a society as a whole. You can make a difference in the life of others – count your blessings and pass on some to those without/.

 

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, SA-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Gap

Sitting at the Waterfront in Cape Town I watch the crowd of people making their way through the shops and passages of this No 1 tourist attraction. It is buzzing as always after the day of pay for most of the people. Having read a report of the NGO Oxfam just a bit earlier, I wonder how to reconcile what I see with what was written in the research ” Is South Africa Operating in a Safe and Just Space? ”  In the conclusion they mention that South Africa has one of the highest official unemployment rates in the world (25%) and is one of the most unequal countries, with a Gini coefficient of 0.69. The wealthiest 4% of households receive 32% of total income while 66% of households receive only 21% of all income. Over half of South Africans live below the national poverty line and more than 10% live in extreme poverty, on less than R15.85 per day.
Once again it is obvious which gaps exists between those who have and those who don’t have. All BEE and BB BEE and revised BBBEE has not achieved that the entrepreneurial spirit ignited on a scale changing the destiny of the country. Poor leadership and cadre deployment has done injustice to those aspiring to leave the spiral of poverty, hunger and desperation. It is the millions still living under conditions not suitable for humans which did not get the fair share in the new South Africa. But not all is lost – there is an immense will and dedication in many places to better the lives of those in need and hope never has disappeared. But South African society will remain unequal till the spirit of 1994 re-emerges and people understand that only together we can make it and turn the tide towards a prosper nation. It is also this inequality which makes sometimes working in the fields of HIV and AIDS so difficult: empowerment of patients to understand their treatment, to have the means to dish out good food on their tables, a social network which carries those in need the extra-mile. It is not only about donations – bridging the gap between those who have and those who don’t have means to get to a real understanding of each other and a solidarity which comes from the dept of the heart and not as a feeling of obligation to share some bucks with the poor. Religion could play here a much better and supportive role – if all the energy which goes into the controlling of sexuality and related fields as well as marking the territory against competition or those believing differently into supporting social coherence and healing the wounds of our society, much could be achieved in little time. At least the aforesaid gap could be narrowed and the blessings of the new South Africa could be spread to many more as it is done in the moment.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2017

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 13th, 2017
21 days to go.

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