God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Thoughts, inside, comments of a Catholic priest

If a “gangster” calls a “gangster” a “gangster”

This was my spontaneous thought when I heard EFF’s Julius Malema, the man who once defended and desperately wanted to die for Jacob Zuma rose on his feet at the opening of South Africa’s Parliament to scream and shout at the giggling President before being forcefully removed. Later that eve I could not find any compassion with Mr Julius complaining that he might not be able to hold a pen when having an exam the next day because he felt injured during the scuffles broken out when pushed out of the chamber.

Why should it matter to ordinary South Africans?

Because yesterdays calamities mirrored the downfall of the New South Africa in a way which revealed how the struggle for power, the lack of healing within society, the inability of changing the mindset from struggle to democracy and the lack of education and ethics in the cadres and the consequence of repetitive learning instead of thinking outside the box creates a framework for every decent South African in which survival is the first and nation building comes at the end.
The show of force, the intimidation of public, journalists and politicians by an almost authoritarian lock-down of a whole city to protect one man and his cronies is indeed a treat to the future of this beautiful country.

So, next question: Why does this all matter to a blog of “God, Aids, Africa and HOPE”?

The work of HOPE Cape Town, as most other NGO’s does not stop in its defined portfolio – in our case HIV, Aids,TB and related illnesses. It is in its holistic approach assisting those marginalized and as such a tool  supporting nation building. Looking into the social circumstances, allowing for a healthy development of life, taking away the tread of dead, reassuring people of their worth, showing compassion and in doing so leading by example – all those little mosaic pieces are needed to fill the bigger puzzle picture of a prosperous South Africa. Like in a motor-block the smallest screw is important to make the entire motor run round.
The backbone of such an adventure to make South Africa a shining example of a functioning democracy where every citizen counts and is appreciated is Parliament where members should explore and decide with dignity and reason on the framework for such a way forward. In a highly demoralized society which still licks the wounds of apartheid the role model function of MP’s and the institutions concerned is even higher than usual.

Yesterday evenings’ events show the promise of more dark hours for South Africa to come – and as long as the ANC is not able and willing to let go of a president having lost all credibility and recall him demagogues like Malema will have easy play with harsh consequences for this country. It’s up to us all to stop this in its traces and to work even harder to transform and heal this country – and important is this combination. “radical transformation” will not work – because healing needs time and dialogue and if we want to use the word “radical” in this context then only “radical compassion” and “radical dedication” towards our goal will bring the wanted outcome for every South African.

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Loving to be a victim

We often talk about victims in South Africa – victims of crime, falling victim to a disease, victims of circumstances, victims of traffic accidents – a never-ending story unfolds when talking about victims. What really got me going this week was the perceived victimization of students. I listened to the comments made by students after all the intimidation, violence,burning of property, throwing stones – and when then taken into custody, they are the victims because the state power did not allow them to continue their destructive actions.
But it is not only the students – it seems that it is in the moment en vogue to be a victim – especially of circumstances, of the wrong time, the wrong advice, the wrong friends, the wrong teachers. It feels, looking around that it is part of the South African soul, searching for its midst, to feel victimized.

It seems that the normality of decency or honesty or respect has been fallen victim too – one is not only entitled to be a victim, but one carries this stigma like a batch of honor or a banner in front of oneself – the world should know that I am hurt, hindered and stopped to be who I want to be because of others and circumstances. And if need be, destruction and violence are my witnesses to my message.
I read this as a sign that the soul and fabric of our society is still deeply hurt and mourning its own past, counting the wounds which were so nicely covered in the first years, the honeymoon of society. And having the Zumas, the Guptas, the Hlaudis and all the others in charge of a deeply disturbed society there is no healing in sight, but only exploitation on most levels and shameless abuse of resources so much-needed to bring about this healing.

Cry beloved country – who does not know this term – maybe this is what is needed – accepting all the pain and hurt and a collective crying about the past and the presence before being able to wipe the tears from each others face and moving forward. This can only happen if we get leaders we deserve, honest and trustworthy leaders, politicians who have the plight of the people instead the filling of their own pockets at heart. It also need church leaders who much more than now engage in the healing process instead of battling long-lost wars within society. Without a sincere leadership in politics, churches and society this country will take a long time to heal . And the first so-called born free generation deserves more than a bleak future driven by the impotence and lack of will of today’s people in charge.

We have overcome Apartheid, we are in the process to hopefully overcome pandemics like HIV – we still have the strength of rising up like the phoenix of the ashes – but for that we must commit to decency and compassion and overcome the somehow sad happiness of being a victim.

Filed under: Africa, General, 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

More therapy = more unprotected sex?

Scenery around KLCC park at night

 KLCC park at night (Photo: Wikipedia)

There is the argument, that antiretroviral therapy seen as prevention could lead to more unprotected sex in the future. That, so argue the people following this line,  will jeopardize treatment success and discourage from using a condom or taking other measures of protection. On the 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Kuala Lumpur a study was presented addressing the issue. The results are encouraging:  A meta-analysis has found no increase in risk taking in people who are
taking antiretroviral treatment, compared to other people with HIV. In
fact, people on treatment had less unprotected sex and fewer sexually
transmitted infections. For more on this topic please continue reading here.

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

Culture and language

Township Blue

Township Blue (Photo credit: Joseph A Ferris III)

Traveling through some European countries again I sometimes reflect on the distances between people’s understanding and imagination. Townships and life conditions of most South Africans are known to many in Germany only via TV, a view protected by glass and the possibility to switch it off when it comes to close. How does one bring the real colors, the smell, the atmosphere from one continent to the other?

Also the question of realities and how I name them is different and having the same vocabulary does not mean to understand each other. This is true when talking about people from different life environments, but even within my own circles I often experience that words can have so many different meanings and create so many different associations. What very often irritates me is that words are connected with judgement, with “good or bad” feelings, with “white or black” . The older I get the more I get irritated when descriptions are perceived as judgements and how often people take things much more personal than they are meant to be.

I guess, this all is important to reflect when traveling the world to bring people together and let them join hands, who are far away and maybe even never meet, but hear about each other. But this also important to reflect when working in international teams where people from different cultures and languages are working together. Also HOPE Cape Town has this kind of challenges, bringing together different South African cultures and adding the European spice. Quite a mixture, but I believe in diversity and I am sure that this challenge is also an asset because it forces us again and again to listen to each other and to learn from each other. A lifelong and never-ending learning curve – and at the same time a motor for development into the future.

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

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

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

Ball of HOPE 2017

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

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