God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Moments in between…

“How was the holiday?” – a lot of people ask when I am returning home after weeks of being overseas. And even if I nicely tell them that traveling for me means work, it seems that I cannot get through.  They have read also about the HOPE Gala Dresden, the jet-set and glamor, they know that I meet stars, starlets and politicians.. and somehow that translates into “fun under the sun”.

It is difficult to explain, that HOPE Cape Town only runs it’s business when people are donating money and that there must be that link between those who have and those who have not. It seems impossible to relate that waking up every second night in a different hotel room, meeting different people all day and most evening along can drain the last drop of energy out of your body.

That said, of course, there is the fun part, the parties, the laughter, the ease of life which hopeful at a point translates into support for HOPE Cape Town as well. But there is more to this travel once in a while.

There is the very brief visit to a person whom I meet in her home. Lying in bed, she is waiting to die. Cancer – last stage – within months the future crumbled to weeks without the possibility to move around. It’s intense, the talk about, what might lie behind the door of death, the curiosity and the fright. It is intense, recalling memories of her husband, who died 21 years ago and taught me lessons in life I will never forget. And I will also not forget his habit to take out a book or a newspaper starting reading when the sermon on a Sunday morning was not up to standard. Laughter and tears, farewell bitter-sweet. There is family, there are the parents who clearly getting older and where I can sense that the light of life is slowly burning down for one of them. Every short brief visit when in Europe might be the last farewell. There are friends, popping in when possible and I am traveling in their neighborhood who want to talk, to re-connect, sometimes just tell their stories, hear advice because somebody coming from far away might have another view on their life situations.

Sometimes, when I close finally my door behind me in a hotel and recall the days events and encounters, I feel so humbled and small in a way, so inadequate to fulfill all the expectations of those who are now going their way again. But on the other hand it is also a blessing to be part of a network of people which now stretches to almost all continents. And it feels good when it peeps and my cellphone presents me with a sms telling me, that my friends in New Jersey are safe after “Sandy”, the devastating storm.

Now sitting at the airport (again) waiting for my next flight to Vienna I am wondering what I will encounter there in the parish where I am invited to preach, to say Mass and to give a talk about HOPE Cape Town and the work we are doing. How I got to that assignment?

Well, it happened in Durban last year when I was asked to say mass and one parishioner had guests from Austria…

Filed under: Catholic Church, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Preparing for Europe

south africa

south africa (Photo credit: rafiq s)



As always this time of the year I am preparing to leave Cape Town and fly to Germany for an extended period of time. For four weeks I will travel to and between Munich, Frankfurt, Dresden, Berlin, Trier, but also Vienna and London and other cities. It is a very hectic schedule, but I try to bundle as much as possible into my agenda to make the long flight worthwhile and to use the time as efficient as possible. The HOPE Gala in Dresden will be the highlight of the trip, followed by the Festive AIDS Gala in Berlin. But besides all glamor the trip is about HOPE Cape Town and about people. It is also about being an ambassador for the situation in South Africa. We are going through a tough time here in country – mine strikes, burning trucks, strikers killing people who want to work; all the news about violence and intimidation is surely not good news and paints a rather grim picture of South African society. In fights within the ANC, the ruling party, but also corruption, wildcat strikes, violence, high unemployment and the lack of political leadership brings the country to the brink of chaos and unlawfulness. It feels a bit like the wild west when watching the news. But as always there are also rays of hope and a great potential. All this makes it even more important that the relationship between South Africa and European countries is strong and based on honest and correct information, which in return fosters the means to support the new South Africa in a beneficial way. I hope that my travel contributes not only to the well-being to HOPE Cape Town Association& Trust but also gives a bit towards a better future for this beloved country.



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

POZ Magazine: Global Survey: Stigma, Isolation and Discrimination Still Pervasive

Source:  http://www.poz.com/rssredir/articles/hiv_stigma_discrimination_761_18850.shtml

HIV-associated stigma, isolation and discrimination remain pervasive problems in the United States and other parts of the world and continue to have profound effects on people’s willingness to disclose their serostatus to key individuals in their lives. This is the finding of a global survey of 2,035 people living with HIV conducted by the International Association for Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC) on Thursday, July 22, at the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna.
Suniti Solomon, MD, director of the YR Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education in Chennai, India, presented the survey results on behalf of IAPAC. The survey found that stigma, isolation and discrimination are first among unique obstacles facing people living with HIV around the world. There is no shortage of research indicating that they affect HIV prevention and testing efforts, along with initiatives to link and retain people diagnosed with HIV in care and on treatment.
“An environment of tolerance in which an individual can take an HIV test and live with an HIV diagnosis is of paramount importance to effective HIV prevention and treatment programs at local and national levels,” Solomon said. “Health care providers bear the responsibility of ensuring compassionate and nonjudgmental care of patients.

“Society—or all of us—have a responsibility to break down the barriers of stigma, isolation and discrimination that persist almost 30 years into the global HIV pandemic,” she added.

Indeed, the IAPAC survey results illustrate that HIV-associated stigma, isolation and discrimination remain pervasive issues all over the world.

The AIDS Treatment for Life International Survey (ATLIS 2010) was conducted in the same manner as a similar survey reported in 2008 at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, which found that people living with HIV around the globe still live in fear of the societal stigma that surrounds the disease, and that some are so concerned about side effects of medication that they have chosen to stop their antiretroviral (ARV) drug regimens. The ATLIS 2010 data reported in Vienna were based on Internet, telephone and face-to-face interviews conducted with 2,035 HIV-positive adult men and women residing in five global regions: 201 people residing in North America, 201 in Latin America, 1,133 in Europe, 200 in Asia and the Pacific and 300 in Africa. A second set of results from the survey, evaluating patient-physician communication, was also reported in Vienna.  The survey was conducted with support from Merck. According to ATLIS 2010, Solomon reported, the emotional toll of HIV/AIDS is still considerable. More than one third of respondents (37 percent) reported strong feelings of isolation, with the highest prevalence rates in North America and Asia-Pacific. Depression was also prevalent.

Societal and cultural stigmas also continue to affect people living with HIV around the world. According to Solomon, 38 percent of respondents felt as if others were judging them. What’s more, nearly half of respondents had encountered someone who was afraid to have casual contact with them—25 percent reported that someone would not share food or drink with them, and 24 percent reported that someone would not kiss them, simply because they are living with HIV. Forty-two percent of ATLIS 2010 participants also reported “strong concerns” about others learning their HIV status. Seventy-nine percent, for example, cited social discrimination as a reason for their reluctance to disclose. Other drivers included the impact on establishing future relationships (46 percent), impact on current relationships (42 percent), reputation (42 percent), risk of losing job (36 percent) and risk of losing family or friends (35 percent). Though 96 percent of respondents reported having disclosed their HIV status to at least one person, Solomon’s team made some sobering discoveries. For example, 17 percent of respondents in long-term relationships had not disclosed their HIV status to their spouse or partner. In addition, 16 percent of Asia-Pacific respondents and 8 percent of Latin-American respondents had never told anyone about their HIV status. Understandably, many respondents stressed the need for more public education around stigmas. The three most common stigmas in need of combating, Solomon reported, are: a person with HIV has or does engage in risky behavior, people with HIV or AIDS should be avoided, and HIV is easily transmitted through normal everyday activities. “Despite great strides, 29 years into the HIV pandemic, HIV-associated stigma, isolation and discrimination persist,” Solomon said in her concluding remarks. “Addressing these challenges can benefit individual, community and public health.”

by Tim Horn

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

POZ Magazine: Prevention Is Failing to Target MSM When They’re Young Enough

If we are going to prevent HIV transmission in young men who have sex with men (MSM), we must find strategies to reach them when they are in their early teens. So say researchers who presented a study Monday, July 19, at the XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna.
HIV infection among young MSM is often a conundrum. Studies show that they understand what sexual acts place them at highest risk for HIV infection, but many engage in unprotected anal intercourse with other men of unknown HIV status. What is paradoxical and frustrating is that when prevention researchers ask the young men why they engaged in high-risk behaviors, they typically respond that they didn’t think that what they were doing would lead to becoming infected.
To better understand the context behind this kind of reasoning, D. Dennis Flores III, from Emory Healthcare in Atlanta and his colleagues conducted interviews with 10 young MSM from that city who had recently been diagnosed with HIV. Nine of the men were African American, and one was Latino. Their ages ranged from 18 to 24. The interviews with the young men covered four topic areas: risk behavior, HIV education, the Internet and healthy role models.
As has been found in previous studies, the majority of the young men had viewed themselves as either unlikely or very unlikely to contract HIV in their lifetimes, and half reported experiencing coercion and sexual abuse at the time of sexual initiation.
One 18-year-old participant, Nathaniel, described his own sexual initiation: “I had to be around 13… He worked at my school, he was around 30, a janitor. He was always nice to me for no reason. I mean, I kind of guessed it after a while. He would talk to me. One day I just left school with him. The most we ever did was oral; we didn’t do anything else. But after that, like, he tried talking to me more about leaving school. I really didn’t like him after that.”
Flores and his colleagues found that while all the young men had undergone sex education while in middle school or high school, none reported that these classes included information about gay sex. Moreover, only one of the young men reported having any gay role models while growing up. This meant that relevant sex education occurred on the Internet, which from a sexual risk perspective, can be quite perilous. When these young men went online, most of them saw graphic high-risk sexual encounters, and this behavior quickly became what they perceived as normal and desirable.
“[The Internet] sure has taught me a lot of tricks,” explained 24-year-old Adrien. “Things that I never thought were humanly possible. It gave me a reference. I guess it was kind of revolutionary for me ’cause I’d never seen two men, like, actually get enjoyment out of it. So it was like getting exposed to that was, like, wow, you know…different.”
One of the most important findings, said Flores, was that by the time the young men encountered prevention messages and programs targeted to young gay men, higher-risk sexual activity had already become the norm. For some, they contracted HIV before having ever encountered targeted prevention information.
Flores concluded his presentation by stressing that targeted education, focused on young MSM, should be occurring as early as elementary or middle school and that parents should be taught to be supportive and to teach their sons how to avoid sexual coercion. Moreover, Flores’s team recommends engaging young MSM who are out about their sexual orientation to serve as peer educators and role models for other young men. Lastly, Flores stressed the critical need to use new technologies online to reach young MSM with prevention methods before it is too late.

by David Evans

Source: http://www.poz.com/rssredir/articles/hiv_young_gay_761_18855.shtml

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, Medical and Research, Society and living environment, , , , , ,

26.07.2010 Frankfurt Airport

Arriving at Frankfurt airport. A long and intensive weekend draws to an end. Udo Lindenberg and the Panic Orchestra in Tuebingen – an experience on its own – a different world for a priest, but I learned to know great people. Amongst others Claudius from the group “Karat”, Marit und Arno and many more… Also being on stage to launch the fundraising drive together with Udo is special – one can only imagine the kick, a rock star gets on stage in front of thousands of screaming and waving fans. Well, one would wish that reaction after a sermon…hehehehe 🙂

Lots of talks, planing and a night at home with Viola & Hermjo; it is good to have friends to relax with, discuss pressing issues and also get advice and guidance and share experience without having to watch every word and phrase. Protected areas and I really cherish this moments to let one’s mind speak – the best way to develop ideas to get things moving.

Later the day still meetings, amongst others with a new sponsor and I hope for a good chat and a productive meeting. Again it is amazing to see how many people what to give a hand to assist HOPE Cape Town in its daily work with those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.

All in all 10 intensive days with lots of new information, exchange of ideas – Vienna, Tuebingen, Frankfurt; I fly back with lots of new ideas and concepts, specially also to foster the HOPE Cape Town Trust and to assist in making the work of HOPE Cape Town stronger in the months and years to come.

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, Reflection, , , , , , , , ,

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