God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

PEPFAR and the Catholic Church

A street in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.

A street in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am visiting Johannesburg and a Catholic institution asking for assistance in a difficult situation. The Catholic Church in South Africa has mainly relied on one big sponsor in the last years: PEPFAR, the US American President’s emergency fund. This was done for several reasons; one being that in the beginning it excluded any condom distribution or work with prostitution as a precondition for receiving these funds. There has been very much debate around it at World AIDS Conferences at times as this resulted in some countries showing a clear increase of infections again. Nevertheless, with the money lots of good was also done, amongst others instituting the distribution of antiretrovirals for thousands of South Africans.
The funds now drying up and so the Church is forced to transfer its patients to the governmental facilities with different results. As specially in Johannesburg also quite a big number of asylum seekers still without papers are among those catered for, these people would anyhow not be eligible for continuation of treatment in a primary health care facility.
So the need for special funding to at least get one doctor looking after those patients is needed and hopefully there is a way to support this for the new year.
From what I have seen and heard it seems that for many patients it is a bitter reality check: coming from church run clinics which really went the extra mile for a patient to ensure his or her health, governmental facilities are mostly overcrowded and not able to cope in this way with their patients. Experts fear, that people will be lost in transition or get lost in transition.This shows once again how important the support of the Catholic Church in providing medical services has been and it is to decry that lack of funding forces closure and that – at least in Johannesburg – the government now refuses to deliver antiretroviral medication as a matter of principle to NGO run medical facilities even if they could continue – forcing so the transfer in a way too often not beneficial for the patients.

With a generation of young people being born HIV positive and with the treat of resistance looming like we have seen it with TB, this country needs the continuation of support from all corners of society. Even if there is the growing impression that we have conquered and beaten the deadly pandemic, it might be too early to come to this conclusion. So it is really to hope that also the churches try their utmost to continue as many services as possible to give those infected and affected all necessary support.

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

1.7 million

Death

Death (Photo credit: tanakawho)

The UN report on the situation of HIV and AIDS counts 1.7 million people who have died in 2012 as the result of the pandemic. We hear this figures especially on World AIDS Day and as the number is so big, emotions are normally quiet under control. Being in the situation of having just lost my dad I suddenly realize – not for the first time, but very powerful – what it means, this statistical figure: 1.7 million times a personal tragedy – most times the suffering of having lost somebody very close, very much-loved, surely in those cases very often young people or breadwinner of the family.
When death hits home – statistics suddenly transform into real life stories and every count becomes an emotional story of love and desperation, of the feeling of loss leaving behind those mourning and having to say farewell often to early in life.

Knowing, that early intervention of the Reagan administration would have saved millions of such tragedies show how devastating politics can be towards the individual lives, even thousands of miles away and for decades. And knowing, that Ronald Reagan refused to act because of his religious believe that gay people are not worth the effort shows that even in modern history faith and religion play a vital role in decisions made about life and death of people.

And this story continuous when countries scale down their contribution to the Global AIDS fund, when money for research is scrapped as the economic situation is driven by only financial gain maximization – when wars, weapon trade and the art of killing people is for most countries more important than saving lives. The story continues when religion still contributes to the hate and discrimination and persecution of those living a different lifestyle as the mainstream society.

Advent is time of preparation and reflection for those calling themselves Christians – and maybe it is time to have a hard look at how our action contributes to the well-being of all people not excluding anybody from the unconditional love of God, whom we expect to be born again on Christmas eve. And the higher somebody is in the hierarchy of the church or the political system of a country responsibility grows to act accordingly.

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

Desmond Tutu pleads with Obama…

Desmond Tutu 2007 at the Deutscher Evangelisch...

Desmond Tutu 2007 at the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag in Cologne 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Nobel Peace Prize winner urges the U.S. president to increase global access to antiretrovirals:
“We are making historic progress against HIV/AIDS: The global rate of new HIV infections has levelled, and the number of annual AIDS deaths has decreased by nearly a third since 2005. Antiretroviral drugs are driving these gains by stopping progression of the disease and, we now know, preventing the spread of HIV infections. Yet AIDS remains the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty limits access to lifesaving treatments and 25 million people are living with HIV—representing 70 percent of cases worldwide. President Barack Obama should be commended for uniting the world behind the goal of creating an AIDS-free generation. I share his passion and believe we can achieve this in the next decade—but only if we accelerate the provision of antiretrovirals to the poorest and most vulnerable people. The opportunity has never been clearer. New data published in the New England Journal of Medicine project that early treatment with antiretrovirals in South Africa, my home country, would prove very cost-effective over a lifetime (costing $590 per life-year saved) and generate both public health and economic benefits. The World Health Organization (WHO) now recommends early and preventive treatment with antiretrovirals, including administration to children and uninfected partners of people living with the disease. The WHO estimates that this could save an additional 3 million lives and prevent at least as many new HIV infections through 2025…”

Read the complete plea of Desmond Tutu on politico.com: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/11/keys-to-defeating-hivaids-100006.html
or POZ.com
http://www.poz.com/articles/desmond_tutu_2676_24819.shtml

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Politics and Society, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Networking and the role of NGO’s

Ending my visit to the USA and returning back to South Africa, there is time to reflect on what I take home from my trip besides  good new contacts and lots of goodwill and support.

Well, the first is that the USA and South Africa have lots of common ground – socially and politically.
Visiting the food bank and having an open mind while traveling there is undeniable the common ground of high poverty rates. And in both countries the system produces those who never have a chance to get up – despite the myth of the “American dream”. In the USA it is the system of less governmental assistance and a brutal battle about coming up which produces either winners or losers, in South Africa it is the other way around: government handouts to keep the masses at peace and dependent and after some time there is the culture of entitlement. Add corruption in a big way in South Africa, which paired with the abuse of BB BEE creates a thin layer of very rich people while the rest has to continue to live around the official poverty line. In both countries this creates a gap which widens every day and civil society has to step in with NGO’s and other organizations to bridge the gaps – on one hand a blessing for those who lost out, although every NGO faces the dilemma to somehow also “support” the non-function of governmental involvement and cement the status quo.

Another mutuality is in both countries state organs are used to settle political scores – and with the instrument of non-public run Grant Juries in the USA and the coming secrecy law in South Africa we are in both countries in danger to lose out more civil rights and freedoms our ancestors have fought very hard for. Listening during my stay in the US to people fighting pro-life issues being subjected to prison and year-long fights through the juridical system to clear their names, being observed, wire-taped and somehow threatened it feels in essence not that far away from South Africa, considering what happens to those falling out with the ruling party.

I guess it is this treat to civil rights and freedom of speech which makes it at the end of the day so important to have NGO’s and PBO’s function in both countries – and independent in which field of expertise they are working, they have also to add to a healthy culture of check and balances in politics and society of their respective country. Voluntary engagement can only grow and make a proper impact if done in a society which respects the basic rights of it citizen and ensures their well-being on a level above the poverty line. Maybe one can go so far saying that besides the separation of powers  the culture of voluntary work within civil society organizations is essential for the functioning of a state or country. Therefore the work of NGO’s is always also a political one – even if one tries to keep out of daily politics.

Networking, exchange of ideas between non governmental organizations adds  so to  the “people power” to counter the again and again emerging imbalance within a country created by an over-demand of power and influence by those in government. As even most democracies have created a group of professionals who run the country a lifelong in changing roles  there is the necessity of a strong civil society representation.

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

Any difference between South Africa and the USA?

Food bank Somerville NJNew York  – a buzzing city which never sleeps and lots of people living obviously on the streets and in extreme poverty. The discrepancy between rich and poor is certainly as extreme as in South Africa.
Somerville – visit at one of the three food banks in the county. 850 people are regulars at this food bank, which is supported by church communities and private supporters. My question, whether they get expired food from the big supermarket chains is denied. The fear to be brought to court when somebody gets sick from expired food overrides any charity attempt.
I meet two women, mother and daughter who are living in their car: house gone, job gone – car and food bank keeps them going, at least they have a place to stay in the bitter cold winter nights of New Jersey.
The food bank is placed within an industrial zone – far away from the city center and I guess it’s too far for a lot of needy people. The city has no interest to have it close by – poverty should not be seen in the city center.
Watching TV in the evening – FOX news and others. The way, politics is presented and commented leaves me speechless. I am used to a lot of nonsense in South African politics – but the stupidity of comments on American TV leaves me often speechless. These are no news, that is indoctrination – Gupta news on a well advanced level. It is scary to think that something like this will emerge on that scale also in South Africa.

It seems to me, that the US and South Africa are not that far away on certain levels. The incomprehensible way of politics, the gap between rich and poor, the impact of poverty and unemployment on society, violence of all sorts. The USA is a country which combines first and third world as South Africa does – it is interesting that we perceive one as a world power and the other as an emerging country. How relative is our judgement?
Speaking to people on the ground and in the social services I realized how much we can share and work on together to create a better world for all, not for only those more fortune. And when it comes to HIV and AIDS, some areas of the US and some populations are as in the same bad shape as South Africa. It is amazing that we in South Africa achieved so much when it comes to treatment due to the assistance of the USA, a country which seems to struggle to get their own people on adequate treatment.

Well, of course they are major differences between the USA and South Africa. But at a closer look there are much more similarities and common ground then we usually think. This common ground gives chance to close cooperation and joint ventures looking eye to eye. Any attitude on any side would be wrong.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, Networking, Politics and Society, 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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