God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Advent – Year of Mercy begins in Africa

Year of Mercy

The year of Mercy – beginning in Africa – holds also a message of hope for those thorn apart by stigma, sickness, hopelessness – it is a great entry for the day, we celebrate on the 1st of December: World Aids Day. A celebration that we are all called to turn stigma into blessings, like we are called to turn hate into love and war into peace. It is at the end all interconnected and it appeals not only to Christian but to all people of goodwill.

Sunday 29.11.2015 – Bangui CAR
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy has begun. It began more than a week ahead of the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis opened the wood and glass door of Bangui Cathedral in CAR just a short while ago. Before opening it, he spontaneously explained the significance of his gesture.
“Today Bangui is the spiritual capital of the world,” the Pope said. “The Holy Year of Mercy begins earlier in this land that has suffered for many years as a result of war, hatred, misunderstanding and a lack of peace.”
“This land of suffering is a reflection of all countries around the world that have experienced the cross of war. Bangui is the spiritual capital of prayer for God’s mercy. Let us all ask for peace, mercy, reconciliation, forgiveness and love. Let us ask for peace and reconciliation for Bangui, for the Central African Republic and for all countries afflicted by war!”
The Pope said we need to “free ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need. This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion. It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God’s people.” He reminded the faithful that one of the most important duties of a Christian is “the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation. Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony. Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy.”

“In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love. … Thus what the pagans said of the early Christians will always remain before us like a beacon: ‘See how they love one another, how they truly love one another’.”

“God is stronger than all else…” … “This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships. Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love!”

“To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace.”

 

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, General, HIV and AIDS, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , ,

From Transgender to PrEP – good to know…

It’s time again to suggest some reading for the interested parties to get more insight in HIV and AIDS related matters:

Violence against women is not only in the USA but also in South Africa a very hot topic. The “Well-Project” has written about it and I am sure we all can learn from the extensive knowledge of these articles:
Violence against women and HIV

The CROI conferences are always a good source of new information. Here are the most important HIV research news from the 2015 conference:
6 important HIV research findings

The Body.Com is providing news and information about HIV on different levels. To download the app go here:
TheBody.com in the palm of your hand

The question of transmission between sero-different partners are often of great concern, read about the results of studies regarding gay sero-different couples:
No HIV transmission between serodifferent couples if undetectable load – preliminary results

PrEP – Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) works very well at preventing HIV transmission. Even if that is from a costing point still utopia for South African it is worth to read about it and its obstacles of perception:
How to overcome the challenges of accessing PrEP

Transgender people are having a difficult time – read about how transgender people fighting stigma and injustice:
How Transgender People fighting Stigma…

Starting early treatment gives you advantages – so get tested in times:
Starting HIV treatment early leads to better health..

Enjoy reading!

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

Nobody left behind..

The Melbourne Declaration is the final document of the World AIDS Conference 2014 in Melbourne / Australia. In the times of discrimination and stigmatization but also criminalization especially in African countries it is important to reflect on the aspects being able to give birth to a HIV free generation. A declaration is only as potent as the implementation after the event:

AIDS 2014 Melbourne Declaration
We gather in Melbourne, the traditional meeting place of the Wurundjeri, Boonerwrung, Taungurong, Djajawurrung and the Wathaurung people, the original and enduring custodians of the lands that make up the Kulin Nation, to assess progress on the global HIV response and its future direction, at the 20th International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2014. We, the signatories and endorsers of this Declaration, affirm that non-discrimination is fundamental to an evidence-based, rights-based and gender transformative response to HIV and effective public health programmes.
To defeat HIV and achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support – nobody should be criminalized or discriminated against because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability, religious or spiritual beliefs, country of origin, national status, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a sex worker, prisoner or detainee, because they use or have used illicit drugs or because they are living with HIV.
We affirm that all women, men, transgender and intersex adults and children are entitled to equal rights and to equal access to HIV prevention, care and treatment information and services. The promotion of gender equity is essential to HIV responses that truly meet the needs of those most affected. Additionally, people who sell or who have sold sex, and people who use, or who have used illicit drugs are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, including non-discrimination and confidentiality in access to HIV care and treatment services.
We express our shared and profound concern at the continued enforcement of discriminatory, stigmatizing, criminalizing and harmful laws which lead to policies and practices that increase vulnerability to HIV. These laws, policies, and practices incite extreme violence towards marginalized populations, reinforce stigma and undermine HIV programmes, and as such are significant steps backward for social justice, equality, human rights and access to health care for both people living with HIV and those people most at risk of acquiring the virus.
In over 80 countries, there are unacceptable laws that criminalize people on the basis of sexual orientation. All people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are entitled to the same rights as everyone else. All people are born free and equal and are equal members of the human family.
Health providers who discriminate against people living with HIV or groups at risk of HIV infection or other health threats, violate their ethical obligations to care for and treat people impartially. We therefore call for the immediate and unified opposition to these discriminatory and stigmatizing practices and urge all parties to take a more equitable and effective approach through the following actions:
• Governments must repeal repressive laws and end policies that reinforce discriminatory and stigmatizing practices that increase the vulnerability to HIV, while also passing laws that actively promote
equality.

• Decision makers must not use international health meetings or conferences as a platform to promote discriminatory laws and policies that undermine health and wellbeing.
• The exclusion of organisations that promote intolerance and discrimination including sexism, homophobia, and transphobia against individuals or groups, from donor funding for HIV programmes.
• All healthcare providers must demonstrate the implementation of non-discriminatory policies as a prerequisite for future HIV programme funding.
• Restrictions on funding, such as the anti-prostitution pledge and the ban on purchasing needles and syringes, must be removed as they actively impede the struggle to combat HIV, sexually transmitted
infections, and hepatitis C among sex workers and people who inject drugs.

• Advocacy by all signatories to this Declaration for the principles of inclusion, non-criminalization, non-discrimination, and tolerance.
In conclusion we reaffirm our unwavering commitment to fairness, to universal access to health care and treatment services, and to support the inherent dignity and rights of all human beings. All people are entitled to the rights and protections afforded by international human rights frameworks.
An end to AIDS is only possible if we overcome the barriers of criminalization, stigma and discrimination that remain key drivers of the epidemic.

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

HIV – curse or blessing?

For most people, on first side a pandemic is surely seen as a curse translating into sickness. In the case of HIV- without treatment – it turns into full-blown AIDS and consequently death. Who does not remember the eighties: a quick and cruel death for young people, killed in the prime of their lives.
HIV also means evolution: a small little bug jumps onto a different host and kills the host. Not intentionally of course and it will take a quite some time, maybe a couple of hundred years to develop into a symbiosis which lets bug and host live peacefully together. Otherwise it’s a dead-end for evolution and will at a certain point cease to exist.
HIV is a challenge: In the 1980’s the scientific world raced to find an answer what causes the syndrome. To isolate the bug, to find anti-bodies and consequently a test to determine infection and last but not least to develop first medications working to prevent full-blown AIDS took its time and toll. But HIV is also a challenge for every human being: transmission via bodily fluids means it touches on one of our strongest drive and urge: sexuality. And who controls this desire controls humans – just look into the history of religion and the significance of the control of sexuality via faith.
HIV mixes categories normally separated in society: youth and death. Death is anyhow so often hidden in modern society; now associated with youth and radical eradicating the beauty of it destroys the unspoken view how society works and develops. It changed the rules of engagement on that level dramatically and still does it in developing countries.
HIV means to open up to people living and loving in same sex relationships. Coming from the dark and hidden corners of social life gay people suddenly stood in the limelight of society. HIV and AIDS was part of a sometimes cruel outing process. In our days HIV is globally not anymore associated with homosexuality but the pandemic, almost as a side effect, opened up society to look at different life styles. And without any doubt the solidarity in gay circles in the beginning of the pandemic for their infected friends and partners was an impressive show of compassion and left traces which transformed into signs of normality and acceptance for gay love in the Western hemisphere. Obviously this triggers an antidote from the radical – fundamentalist side of society, mainly coming from the USA in an evangelical form even telling Africans what African culture means in Africa.
HIV is clearly a challenge for politicians and it was HIV which was put on the agenda as the first medical condition dealt with by the UN. This opened doors for other discussions on a global base like on Malaria or TB or all the other forgotten sickness of Africa and South America. We were reminded that they also kill millions a year and that they are in need of being addressed properly. The Global AIDS Fund was a first instrument of tackling a medical challenge on a global scale and not via bi-lateral negations which normally don’t’ see the full picture and are rather small –minded.
HIV means a challenge for society. While in Germany the campaign “Give AIDS no chance” with the commitment of the entire government prevented the pandemic to get into full swing, other countries and governments did not wake up to respond to the treat timely. The bible is right, that the sin of the fathers, in this case the sin of neglect comes onto the children and grandchildren. South Africa, but also Swaziland, is an example of failure with the result of hundred thousands of death and a generation born and plagued by HIV. What a challenge for the social coherence of society.
HIV translates into a challenge for religion, for our faith. Just a look at Ronald Reagan, who refused to act on the first reports of the new disease as it seemly “only” targeted gay people. His faith told him that they anyhow did not live according to God’s moral code; somehow no real action was needed. It reminds us also in this context of all those clerics calling the HIV pandemic the punishment of God for Sodom and Gomorrah in our times.
HIV is not a punishment but a clear sign of the time to reflect on our Christian theology – it has shown clearly that answering new questions with old answer do not serve humanity. The opposite is true: it endangers life. The question of protection cannot be answered with the reply given by authorities quite some time earlier on the question of procreation.
And how about the single human being infected with the HI Virus?
The challenges and reactions are as different as people are different: shock, disbelieve, despair, give–up mentality, defiance, hope….
What is indeed an almost general rule I discovered with people living positively is that after the balance in life is found again, there is a new sense for health and the value of life. HIV has shown how fragile life is and treatment has given almost the opportunity for a second chance in life. People infected mostly have a peace treaty with their boarder – always present even when tested undetectable. There is also the sense of gratitude and somehow, even if it sounds absurd, it changes from being a personal curse into a blessing. And I strongly believe that church should be and could be promoter of this transition, personal and in communities where stigma could be transformed into a blessing. The Catholic Student organisation of South Africa maintains in one of their publications that people living with HIV cannot live life to the fullest as stipulated in John 10.10.
They are wrong: God is giving everyone in his unconditional love the possibility to life their life to the fullest – for him, sexual identity or preference is not a hindrance nor is race or income or any other ability or disability or HIV or AIDS.
You will be a blessing for others – this promise of God applies to everybody who lives and loves with or without HIV.

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

AIDS as disturbance of creation?

English: Freddie Mercury in New Haven, CT at a...

 Mercury in New Haven, CT at a WPLR Show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Relaxing a bit after the Berlin Gala, I watch with interest a TV production about 40 years of the rock band “Queen”. Central to the story is obviously the life and death of Freddie Mercury – singer and song writer of the band.  The life of a genius musician cut short through the HI virus. And there is the sudden realization, how much HIV and AIDS has robbed human mankind of the development of art and culture. As St. Paul writes about creation still ongoing, there is surely to consider that HIV might have disturbed creation in cutting down the potential in human beings to become in a lifetime what they were supposed to be. Or is the HIV pandemic part of creation, part of it laying still in labor?
As God and creation are connected, it makes more sense to talk about the body of Christ having AIDS, being in pain and suffering. And even if in Europe HIV is not that much connected to suffering, death and dying any more – worldwide millions of lives are cut short by this virus. The suffering, the stigma, the discrimination continues despite all successes in treatment. And theological, there is still so much more to learn and develop and put into our teaching than we have done before. The climate within my church has changed – at least it is allowed again to think without fear – it would be great to use this time of spring to see, what else HIV and AIDS can tell our theology.

 

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, HIV and AIDS, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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