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Blessed Anuarite Nengapeta is a young Sister of the Holy
Family d’Isiro-Wamba and a midwife who was murdered
resisting the sexual demands of a rebel leader in the Congo
in 1964. St Aloysius Gonzaga is a young Jesuit who
selflessly gave his life caring for victims of the deadly
plague in Rome in 1591. We entrust the African Jesuit AIDS
Network to their prayer and protection.


PROMISES AT BANGKOK

At the previous International AIDS Conference (IAC) in
Barcelona in July 2002, the competition between preventing
HIV and treating those with AIDS was set aside, with
everyone agreeing that both prevention and care were equally
needed. This month in Bangkok, about 17,000 AIDS researchers
and activists attended the 15th such conference, the largest
global gathering to discuss the disease. AIDS has already
killed 20 million people and currently some 38 million
around the world are HIV+, 25 million of them in sub-Saharan
Africa. It is impressive to see so many leaders, scientists
and activists assembled around the HIV/AIDS challenge and
yet, unfortunately, they do not give the impression of
uniting in the needed common effort. “Bangkok has to be the
end of promises made, promises broken,” Graça Machel
declared.

The prospects for medical forms of prevention, like a
vaccine or a microbicide, were again postponed five or ten
years into the future. But each year there are 5 million new
cases of HIV-infection. And although antiretroviral therapy
is more readily available, it reaches relatively few and it
is still no cure. So the Bangkok Conference was dominated by
rivalry between the principal forms of behavioural
prevention — abstinence and fidelity, and condoms. Ugandan
President Museveni claimed that abstinence and loving
relationships were more crucial to fighting AIDS than
condoms but, despite Uganda’s well-known success, only a
minority were ready to agree with Museveni.

“Our action against AIDS is an act of faith; an act of faith
because we are sure that we will overcome the stigma and the
discrimination and we will change history,” said the Caritas
International representative, Fr Robert Vitillo. One evening
about eighty Catholic Programme Representatives gathered to
hear about pastoral responses to the pandemic from local
Churches in Thailand, India, China and Africa. As Church
workers shared experiences and concerns, the African input
stressed the need to encourage and support the Bishops in
leading the Church’s HIV/AIDS ministry, and to make
inventory of what the Church has been doing in this much-
needed field.

Besides the Catholic gathering, AJAN´s coordinator
participated in the ecumenical pre-conference and in the
inter-faith chapel and exhibit space. Amidst the aggressive
rivalries of the Conference, the chapel was a spiritual
oasis where Muslim prayer and Buddhist meditation alternated
with Christian services and a daily Eucharist. According to
Dr Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, “Religious
organizations have a long history of activism on social
justice issues, and you have been standing to speak to the
world about the moral challenges of our time, including
AIDS.” Bangkok was overwhelming, but so is HIV/AIDS itself,
and this 15th IAC spurs AJAN on.

Contact: Michael Czerny SJ aids@jesuits.ca


AIDS JESUIT HONOURED

Professor Michael J Kelly SJ, of the University of Zambia,
will be honoured by the University of the West Indies in
November 2004. Professor Kelly will receive an Honorary
Degree at the West Indies University’s annual graduation
ceremony at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados. This honour is
in recognition of his leadership role in the field of
education and HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.
Fr Kelly has contributed significantly to the Caribbean
since 2001, sharing with Governments and University leaders
his experience in sub-Saharan Africa, especially Zambia. His
visits to the Caribbean were supported by UNESCO, the
Commonwealth Secretariat and the University of the West
Indies (UWI).

Based in Zambia, Fr Kelly made an interesting observation
about similarities between the Caribbean and Africa. “While
the Caribbean AIDS epidemic differs in size and scope from
that in many parts of Africa, I have been struck by the many
similarities. One of the most tragic commonalities is the
almost universal stigma and discrimination based on
ignorance, fear, sheer prejudice, and a strong tendency to
see HIV/AIDS as being a problem ‘out there’ which somebody
else has, but not me, not my problem.”

In 2002-2003, Professor Kelly worked with UNESCO and the UWI
to prepare the seminal work, “Education & HIV/AIDS in the
Caribbean,” published by UNESCO’s Office for the Caribbean
and the International Institute for Education Planning in
October 2003. The book is available for downloading at
http://www.unesco.org/iiep/PDF/pubs/KellyCarib_web.pdf

Contact: Michael J Kelly SJ mjkelly@zamnet.zm


COVENANT, SPIRITUALITY AND TREATMENT

South Africa is hard hit by HIV and AIDS, with 5.3 million
infected by the end of last year. At the enormous
Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto near Johannesburg, there is
no specific AIDS department because every ward deals with
AIDS and its opportunistic infections. That is where Alan
Peter serves as a Jesuit priest and physician. On July 1 he
spoke about AIDS ministry and antiretroviral therapy. He
presented three topics: Covenant and Marriage, the
Spirituality of Illness and Suffering, and South Africa’s
antiretroviral programme. Over sixty people filled the
auditorium of Hekima College in Nairobi.

“Covenant and Marriage” is a talk that Fr Peter typically
gives to young people. He used three simultaneous examples
in parallel, with Blood as the sign of all three. In the Old
Testament, circumcision was the sign of Abraham’s covenant
with the Almighty. In the Gospel, Christ sheds his blood on
the cross, the sign of the New Covenant. And in marriage,
the blood of first intercourse flows, the sign of a covenant
of love. Love and fidelity are the common characteristics of
Covenant, and marriage is covenantal when both spouses have
practiced abstinence before marriage. Without blood there is
no Covenant.

On the Spirituality of Illness and Suffering, Fr Peter
presented different models of God projected in illness: God
the Headmaster, God the Immature Lover, and Christ on the
Cross. In HIV and AIDS, people sometimes project a
disciplinary God, a sort of headmaster who punishes
transgressors; here, illness is one such punishment. Or God
can seem to be testing the faith and love of someone HIV+ on
the allegory of an immature person unsure of the other and
always putting their relationship to the test, like the
“friends” did to Job. Rejecting these two models, Fr Peter
contrasted them with the model of Christ the Son of God on
the cross suffering for and with the world. Christ is one
with those with HIV and AIDS, not against them, and with
them on the journey.

In the third talk, drawing on his experience in public
sector medicine, Fr Peter described the controversial roll-
out of the antiretroviral programme in South Africa and
explained the government’s guidelines for access to
treatment and their practical implications. Useful
information was supplied regarding the initiation and follow-
up of ARV therapy. Everyone who is HIV+ should not
immediately begin ARVs, as this depends on the strength of
the immune system and other physical conditions. Several
different combinations of medications exist, in order to
avoid resistances, and constant monitoring is required to
make sure that the correct doses are being applied.
Much was packed into a single and very educational
afternoon, sponsored by the Kenya Catholic Church’s HIV/AIDS
Taskforce.

Contact: Alan Peter SJ doctorfather@yahoo.com.au


TWO NEW BOOKS

“Catholic Bishops of Africa and Madagascar Speak out on HIV
& AIDS” includes over sixty pastoral letters, messages,
communiqués and statements that African Conferences and some
individual Bishops have published about HIV/AIDS from the
late 1980s until 2003 … so that, throughout the continent
and beyond, the people of God may know the prayer, thinking
and teaching of their Pastors concerning this painful topic.
The collection culminates with the statement and action plan
of the African Bishops, “Our prayer is always full of hope,”
promulgated on World AIDS Day, 2003. The collection was
edited by the African Jesuit AIDS Network. Biblical and
subject index, 112 pages. Ksh 150.

Many ways are being found to live as long as possible and in
good condition with HIV and AIDS. What is lacking is the
sharing of information. Hope is possible only if patients
and care-givers are equipped with usable information on
HIV/AIDS and on how to manage it. This manual, called “Rays
of Hope,” is co-sponsored by the African Jesuit AIDS Network
and Caritas Internationalis. It aims at providing useful
knowledge about HIV and AIDS, their related diseases and
their symptoms, and how to treat them medically and with
nutrition. It focuses on accessible and affordable means for
African people, including the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs)
which are beginning to become more available. A maximum of
information is given so that many infected people,
especially in Africa, might stop dying due to lack of
knowledge. Paterne-Auxence Mombe, S.J., “Rays of Hope:
Managing HIV & AIDS in Africa,” 176 pages. Ksh 300.

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