God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

What has it really brought… the conference???

Being back in South Africa and back at my working desk and in my working environment the question remains and I am often asked: What has it really brought to go for 48 hours on flights with 18 hours stop over to attend a conference with more than 20.000 people I don’t know and which comes together for 5 days from all over the world.

First of all: I guess, I will take the shorter flight – only looking to save some hundred bugs does not do the trick and flying from the USA via Europe forwards and backwards is a pain in the neck. On the other hand it had the chance to get used to the new environment.. well.. somehow… 🙂
And even being with such a crowd together: I met people I know, even Prof Cotton from the own HOPE Cape Town Association board was queuing with me on the first day to get into the lecture hall passing the tight security. So it was not that lonely. But despite Washington not being very much involved into the conference, the conference remains a beacon of inspiration. I met so many people from so many angle of lives: I spoke to Thai transvestite and escorts, Russian gay activists fearing for the future of an open society, women from Asia, Africa, South America, HIV positive themselves or affected by the pandemic and all that spirit of keeping the fight going, battling against the odds, not giving up against politicians who don’t want to listen, societies, so traditional that one can’t even mention sexual words in public – it was inspiring. Talking to sex workers about their work experience, drug users who escaped somehow the tight visa control of the USA and made it to the conference, priests who are also doctors in the fields of HIV and AIDS – so many faces are still alive in my mind and in my heart and in my soul.

So, yes, even after some time it remains good to have been in Washington, also for my own well-being as an activist, as a priest realising again in all those encounters how important it is to fight on. To keep the fire burning, also in the very own church. Once again I was reminded what great organisation the Catholic church is when it comes to care, but also how disastrous the moral theology can be at times, putting lives in danger to say the least. The church as the community of saints and sinners were very close to me in Washington – and I could associate with both parts of it. 🙂

I will have meetings now in September with some of the folks I met in Washington and then I will see what in practical terms will come out of the conference for HOPE Cape Town Association and Trust – besides all the new material I could collect and bring with to South Africa. And I am confident that at the end the travel was beneficial to all concerned – as a Rotary saying says.

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

Toward a Cure: Virologic Control Documented in 14 Acute HIV Treaters

An interesting article not to be missed:

A new study released Thursday, July 26, at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, DC, found that 14 people living with HIV have achieved long-term non-progressing “viral controller” status after being treated with antiretrovirals (ARVs) during the acute phase of their infections. The fact that these individuals have shown no signs of viral load rebounds following termination of their prescribed treatment regimens may ultimately provide guidance to scientists pursuing “functional” HIV cure.

Read more in the orginal article of the POZ magazine: http://www.poz.com/rssredir/articles/hiv_contoller_cure_761_22772.shtml

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , ,

pastoral care not possible!?

Having spoken and listening to lots of people during the conference who are dealing with pastoral care for those marginalized in our society there is still a question which is haunting me quite for some time:
How can we minister to such groups like those who are gay, or are HIV positive (and not married) or transgender, or drug-addicts when the moral judgement of the faithful rather scares them away then making them feel embraced and loved?
I ask this question specially on the back ground of HIV being most prevalent in men who have sex with men.

Some would say, if they don’t have sex with each other, they wouldn’t infect themselves. Right, that is exactly the kind of answer I am making the case for…

Yes, I  know, we love the sinner and hate the sin, but that is just “a say” – how can we say we love gay people but we reject their feelings and their happiness when it comes to practical terms, when we forbid them to live out their love.
And is the AIDS pandemic consequently not just a very welcomed way to enforce such a moral judgement and infringement of basic human rights and adding  to the stigma and consequently discrimination of those “unfortunately not by God made so perfect” people?

Or how comes that in many countries, where homosexuality is a crime with severe punishment the church is rather on the side of the oppressors than of those fallen victim to such practice? And supports with it a lesser chance that the gay person receives adequate treatment and care.

Take Uganda – where the debate about AIDS and GAY and DEATH PENALTY is not quiet and still in political debate and where the church “for the protection of family and marriage values” rather condones the state orders killings (called execution) instead standing in for the dignity and human rights of every son and daughter of God in this world. Where is the sanctity of life in this case?
When we don’t uphold the sanctity of life in all aspects, we have a big problem being taken serious. There is no gamble or choosing when to advocate the holiness of life.

There is no half a dignity, there is no limited human right, there is also no mistake in the creation of mankind – God saw that it was good and if he sees it, why we are blind at times? He gave us eyes to admire his creation as well…

Pondering these thoughts I do understand why HIV/AIDS is a calling to put our thinking, our comfort zones, our theology, our way we discover God to the test – it is a like a deep calling to engage with all these minority groups who are the hardest hit by the pandemic. By engaging with them, by bringing the unconditional love to them I am sure we suddenly discover a different face  of God, another glitter in his eyes watching lovingly over each and everybody.

HIV and AIDS is not only a medical problem; it can only be overcome when we end stigma and discrimination, when we end our “Sunday sermons” and change those silent disapproval which so easily can get out of hand.

And yes, I know that we care about all these people in need in a practical sense, and we are great in it. Without the churches involvement the plight of so many marginalized people would be even more big – but we can do better in lovingly accepting that God’s creation is much bigger as what we think and  give to us as margins for our life. Only then can we be advocates for life; only then can we be truly advocates for the living God and his unconditional love. We just pass on what we have received.

Coming back to the beginning of this blog part:

We can only work pastoral with people who feel that we take them as they are, we can only work spiritual with people who feel embraced with all their life structures, with all the things making them the person they are. People who are afraid of the church, who are afraid of the “intrinsic evil” they are committing according to our teaching, are lost for our pastoral care, are practically excluded even if we try to cover up with the “evil” with smart words that we don’t mean it that way.

HIV and AIDS confronts us as Christians, as the church with our own shortcomings, prejudice and perceptions… it is up to us to let this confrontation happen in the best sense of the word to discover what we still lacking in meeting the mercy and unconditional love of God we are called to – now and here.

Filed under: General, HIV Prevention, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A day at the conference..

6 am is a good time for a quick email review session before breakfast and bus transfer to the Convention Center downtown.  At 8.40 am the plenary session starts going on till 10.30 am and covering important topics. Today it was the question of prevention under the headline “turning the tide”.  11 am meeting with a group organized by the International AIDS Society for a review of the conference so far and an exchange amongst delegates. After that a brief meeting with a possible partner before heading to the next appointment with a doctor and priest from Hawaii who considers to work in Africa after retirement. What are the conditions for such an idea, what is possible, what is needed?
Further networking and revisiting some of the booths for more information intake before at 6.30 pm the next event starts with Stephen Lewis, the former adviser to Kofi Annan on HIV/AIDS in Africa. As usual he finds clear words on the situation and one wishes for more straight forward talk on the conference.
At 8.45 the bus is bringing us back to the hotel in Arlington.
And after another check on the emails, it is time to sort out everything for tomorrows day. Planing is everything, workshops, talks and networking needs coordination to succeed in having a successful day. But until then some rest is needed…

IAS Research Meeting

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sometimes it hurts… Another day @ the conference

Today, the second day of the conference, is my focal point more on HIV and faith-based organizations. So the day starts early with an interview for the Catholic “domradio” in Cologne. Next to networking with people of this field I also read some comments about the conference and one got my attention immediately. It is written by Dr P. B. and published not only on his blog but also on the internet news of kath.net, a more right-wing Catholic news website in the German language.
The headline “what really helps against new infections” got as said my attention and already the first sentence of the article gave the answer: “With the simple approach to live chaste till marriage and then be faithful to the partner within marriage 99% of all risk factors are eliminated”.
Wow, I thought really impressive. And I guess with a similar strategy can we can empty our prisons as everybody has to remain honest and non-violent instead of stealing or murdering someone and the problem is 99% solved. The logic of the article culminates in the argument, that people become infected because they don’t listen to the pope – and mentions Africa and specially Catholic areas on the continent where such prevention work has great success.

Such argumentation makes me speechless, but I was comforted through a podium in the afternoon where a pastor from Malawi told us about his experience in seeing HIV and AIDS as a challenge to come out of our comfort zones church normally provides and to give answers needed ending stigma and discrimination. He also was very critical of certain forms of development aid European or US style: “Africans can think of their own” , so the pastor and the audience underlined it with laughter and applause. An US American pastors wife told us from her experience working in Rwanda and a Thai monk about the great work, he is doing on the level of interfaith. He and his fellow clergyman, monks and imams are also looking for those caring for people living with HIV and AIDS. A humbling experience just to listen how those people gave witness about their calling to get involved in the battle against the pandemic.

This is what we need in our churches, mosques, synagogues and temples: people who believe honestly that HIV and AIDS is a challenge, not only for a personal life, but for the way we believe, we pray, we worship, we see our brothers and sisters. Yes, we need those people in our churches, mosques, synagogues and temples who are not afraid to open up, network beyond the borders of faith and denomination or religion. We need people who are simply not afraid to listen to their calling which overcomes human boundaries and is driven by the unconditional love towards their fellow neighbors.

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