God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Corrective rape and murder

Lerato Moloi from Soweto / South Africa seems to be the latest victim of the so-called “corrective rape” , defined as a hate crime in which one or more people are raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The word “murder” does not need any further explanation. An explanation is indeed needed why South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world – including “corrective rape” used to “cure” lesbian women of their homosexuality.
It seems that in a country having lost the moral compass and moral leadership a longer time ago the ugly head of homophobia trends against one of the most advanced constitutions in recent history.
Added to this is surely also the message of religious institutions labeling same-sex love as not natural or intrinsic evil. Evangelical Christian Talibans from the USA adding the word “un-African” to this toxic mix and at the end people are hurt or die because they just live out their true identity.
It is time to stand up, as a society, as a church, as an individual and to get vocal against hate crimes, against violence specifically in connection with gender identity or sexual orientation.
A democratic society lives from the baseline that all its people have the rights stipulated in the constitution and that no ideology, no faith, no own opinion gives the right to violently “correct’ or “kill” the life, the lifestyle, the love, the commitment of the fellow neighbor. Where ever it happens we have collectively stand up, defend and at best prevent such incidents.
This is indeed also a call towards the police and courts in South Africa to act with decisiveness and not to delay or even shame those who fall victims to such horrendous crimes.
I am grateful to the Catholic Jesuit Institute – belonging to my church – that they are not silent on the crisis unfolding for our LGBTIQ brothers and sisters and all the vulnerable women and children falling victim to this crisis. Please read their statement here:

Press-statement: South Africas gender based violence-crisis/

Such topics need a presence in the media – here another recent article on the topic:

Corrective-rape-The-homophobic-fallout-of-post-apartheid-South-Africa

 

 

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Durban2016 – a reflection on the World Aids Conference

durbanTomorrow ends the World Aids Conference in Durban – most probably the same way it started, with lots of encouraging words and hopes held high: treatment for all, equity, justice and equal treatment for those on the margins of the so-called society.

It was a week full of talks, presentations, encounters – a week full of demands, pleas, promises and a concert of different voices: researchers, activists, business people – all wanting to have a share and a say in the biggest HIV related global conference, taking place every two years.

The magic year 2020 and the numbers 90 – 90 – 90 were repeated and mentioned over and over: 90 % of the infected people should know their status; from those knowing 90% should be on treatment – and from those on treatment 90% should be undetectable.
Another magic year named very often was 2030 – the aimed end of the Aids pandemic.

But let’s be honest: all the tears, pleas and promises could not hide the fact: as the world stands today, we will not reach this goal. 16 out of 37 million people are in the moment on treatment – and the Global Aids Fund lacks promised money to reach all of the ones in need of treatment. The so-called “war on terror”, the financial crisis, the madness of politics let made financial pledges degrade into empty promises. The gap between what governments have pledged, what is needed and what they finally pay into the global fund is going into millions of US Dollars.

And it is not the lack of money – besides the madness of war and terror, perceived or real – it is the assumption that we have the Aids pandemic under control. It seems forgotten that every year 2 million new infections are still counted and 1 million people perish as a consequence of HIV, Aids and related illnesses.

But even the future looks bleak – conferences like this are needed: they serve as a public reminder of the injustice of poverty, sickness and premature death and the responsibilities of governments and public health sectors. They also bring people together one would not meet otherwise.
In South Africa without the activism we still would be told that HIV does not cause Aids and that antiretroviral treatment kills. Only activism, toi-toi and conferences as well as taking the government to court as civil society brought the much-needed results. But we should never forget those having died because Manto Tshabalala Msimang and others fought against common sense for a far too long time.

I am grateful that this conference brought me together with gay, lesbian, transgender, intersex people, with male and female sex workers and with drug users – encounters without the moral pointing finger – it was about meeting other human beings with their struggles like I have my struggles. It was about listening and giving everybody dignity and space to talk, to share, to explore, to feel loved and accepted. How much could also the churches learn from such encounters – understanding that the world is much more diverse and colorful than most allow themselves to accept in their small little world of daily and religious life.

Conferences like this also help to deepen the understanding of HIV and its related problems, it gives the chance to celebrate successes, mourn failures and last but not least to feel not alone in the battle against a deadly syndrome. 18 000 people from all over the world, united in an ongoing battle to save lives, to demand access to treatment, to put the fingers on human rights abuses and inhumane and unjust laws hindering our fellow brothers and sisters to live life to the fullest.

Conferences like this are energizing – they liberate one from the narrow views one automatically have working day in and day out in the same social and cultural environment – for me as a priest they open up to what “catholic” really means in the full sense of the word.

Churches are praised for their active role in the fight, but they are not very much appreciated when it comes to legal matters or global or national policy decisions. The anti-gay laws in Nigeria, the questions of sexual orientation and the women’s rights in matters reproduction are contentious issues which impact clearly also onto the fight against HIV and Aids. Sometimes it seems that moral considerations overshadow the life-and-death consequences, such stances have on grassroots level.
And obviously the long stance of my own church regarding condoms did not help either – and it took Benedict XVI’s interview to start open up this question in his acknowledgment, that if a male escort uses a condom to protect his customer it is the beginning of morality.

So lastly conferences like this put the finger on open questions, on answer demanding questions, they make the bridge between teaching, sciences, research, religion, faith and real life palpable and it’s the conversation between all parties which could bring solutions adequate to the life of the ordinary person plagued by all the challenges on a daily base.

So thank you to the organizers of the conference for making it possible once again to meet, to greet, to exchange, to laugh together, to learn together, to fight together, to discern together, to disagree with each other in the quest of the best answer possible.

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

Moral responsibilities to disclose your HIV status?

Moral responsibilities to disclose your HIV status to partners aren’t so clear-cut

By Bridget Haire

Bridget Haire is a lecturer in ethics, HIV prevention at UNSW Australia.
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Sexual ethics is an area prone to strongly felt moral intuitions. We saw this play out in the good, bad and sometimes ugly commentary following Charlie Sheen’s public disclosure of his HIV status. But just how much disclosure is it reasonable to expect from a sex partner, particularly if that relationship isn’t a serious and committed one?
Common morality
There is a “common morality” precept that for sex to be truly consensual, sexual partners need to disclose certain facts to their intended partner. This includes information about sexually transmissible infections, and whether the person is in a committed (supposedly) exclusive relationship such as a marriage. Identity is also relevant. It’s generally considered wrong (and often a crime) to have sexual relations with someone by means of deception such as impersonation.
Withholding material facts or deceiving a sexual partner deprives a partner of making an informed choice about whether or not to engage in sex, given the particular social and health contexts that apply. If consent to sex was dependent on an intentional deception, it was coerced rather than freely given. This “common morality” precept is also upheld from a sexual rights perspective. This decrees that every person has the right to freedom and to protection from harm, such as those harms that accrue from coerced sex.
But there are exceptions
These principles appear fairly straightforward but can become vexed when there is risk for the person disclosing, or it’s unclear whether the facts themselves require disclosure. Consider instances where transgendered people may seek to “pass” as their non-birth gender to a sexual partner. Under the sexual rights framework, all people have a right to non-discrimination and to enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms on an equal basis to others. These fundamental freedoms include the right to sexual pleasure. If the intended sexual partner of a trans person is not accepting of transgender concepts and is entrenched in gender binaries, he or she may react to disclosure by rejection or even violence. Arguably then, it may be reasonable not to disclose transgender status given that it could involve serious risk, foreclose the possibility of sexual pleasure and expose the disclosing person to discriminatory hostility.
From the condom code to negotiated safety
When HIV first erupted in the 1980s, gay communities emphasised condoms as a universal precaution, rather than relying on the disclosure of HIV status, which was not always known.
The condom code of the 1980s was also a community-building strategy that recognised the importance of sex for gay men who had fought to have laws criminalising gay sex removed. The stigma and discrimination that had been associated with homosexuality transformed into gay liberation and pride. The condom code emphasised mutual protection rather than a division along the lines of HIV status. This avoided some of the perils of HIV stigma at a time when connection and support were of critical importance in order to care for the sick. As the epidemic matured and treatment options developed from marginally effective drugs with difficult side effects to the highly effective and well-tolerated combination therapies used today, prevention responses also evolved. From the early 1990s, gay men in couples began to make strategic use of HIV testing to determine whether or not they needed to use condoms with each other. This strategy, dubbed “negotiated safety”, was one of several ways to reduce HIV risk that involved testing. Now, HIV treatment can reduce one’s viral load to undetectable levels and reduce HIV transmission to partners. This has raised questions about whether people with undetectable viral loads can consider themselves uninfectious, and whether they are legally or morally compelled to disclose their status to partners. Interestingly, some public health laws such as the New South Wales Public Health Act require disclosure. But taking “reasonable precautions” against transmitting the infection is cited as a defence. Whether or not such “precautions” may include maintaining an undetectable viral load, as distinct from using a condom, has not been tested.
Disclosing HIV status
At the moral level, does a person with HIV have a duty to disclose her or his status to a sex partner? That depends. While sex is a physically intimate act, sexual relationships have different levels of depth and intensity, ranging from the most seriously committed to the casual and transient. Duties to sexual partners must therefore sit on a gradient. Within the most trusting and committed relationships, non-disclosure of a serious infection such as HIV would undermine the intimacy of the partnership. In casual sex situations, however, HIV disclosure may not be morally required (though in many Australian states it remains legally required), so long as some form of safe sex is practised. Some communities have long recognised that using a condom could discharge the responsibility to disclose. Arguably, maintaining an undetectable viral load could also be seen as adequate, particularly if combined with further risk-reduction measures such as strategic positioning (adopting the receptive role during unprotected sex). With the many and varied relationships that fall somewhere between the two poles, degrees of trust need to be negotiated, and not assumed. All people have duties to their sexual partners regardless of their HIV status and all people have a responsibility to be moral actors in a sexual community. Stigmatising and rejecting sexual partners on the basis of an HIV status needs to be recognised as a moral wrong that works against creating a culture where HIV can be discussed freely and without fear. The response to Charlie Sheen’s announcement of his HIV status demonstrates we have a long way to go before banishing the discriminatory and offensive reactions to HIV-positive people. It’s time to recognise the role that every sexual actor plays in creating a culture where sex is safe for all

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nepal and the gender debate

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1c/Messe-83.JPG

Photo via WikiCommons/Sigismund von Dobschütz

While we in Europe and Africa the discussion on gender issues are heating up and churches and some other quarters of society clearly deny any suggestions that gender might be more diverse or partly also a product of society, some countries take realities and sciences into account. I was always thrilled to see that in my beloved Thailand the “katoi” was known as the third gender. And now the Himalayan country Nepal joins such support for transgender citizens.

Currently, Nepal is one of only eight countries that officially recognize third gender citizens, next to Australia, Bangladesh, Germany, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Thailand. However, despite first including third gender people on a census as far back as 2011, the Himalayan nation of 26.5 million recently marked an important milestone, issuing its first third gender passport.

According to “Human Rights Watch”, Monica Shahi made history when she received her passport with the designation O for “other,” rather than M (Male) or F (Female). Despite recognition of third gender persons, only a handful of the above listed countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have issued corresponding passports.

It is indeed a step in the right direction – God’s creation is much more diverse as visible on first sight and I really believe that God has great humor and he enjoys to spice up creation and evolution with lots of colors, shapes and diverse beings. And whatever it is, sex, looks, handicaps – it all carries a divine message we are asked to receive, read and cherish one or the other way. God does not make mistakes – but humans are very much tempted to do so in prescribing God how to run his ongoing creation. Ecology and environment, nature and creation are top on the list since Pope Francis was elected to be the “St. Peter of our times”. In his encyclical “Laudato Si”  he combined bible and theology with scientific knowledge in a way no other writing of a pope has done before and it is only consequent to develop this combination of two ways of discovering God in all those other fields where we need answers to questions of today’s world and society. This also might mean and will mean robust debate, careful listening to each others positions, and surely being open to be surprised again and again how God works in mysterious ways. And one is for sure: faith and sciences as two ways of getting to know God and they can never really contradict each other – they always will support each other even if it takes time for us humans to understand and acknowledge it.

 

Filed under: General, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
11 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
5 months to go.

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