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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.


CIRCLE OF LIFE

Despite high awareness about HIV and AIDS, the Government of
Malawi found that the rate of actual behavioural change
among Malawians was very low. In “A Call to Renewed Action,”
the Government exhorts all of its citizens to action against
the scourge. FAMLI valiantly and effectively answers that
call. FAMLI (FASU Consultancy & Maternal Life International)
runs an AIDS Cultural Change Programme (CCP), aimed at
rooting out HIV and AIDS at all levels of society in Malawi.
Richard Cremins SJ is the founder and executive director.
The FAMLI AIDS CCP is a holistic approach, designed to
influence those at risk of infection so that they make
informed and life-giving decisions. Though FAMLI is a faith-
based organisation, “everyone is welcome” in its
participatory methodology which can be used by religious
groups, NGOs and government ministries. In this open and
multidimensional approach, FAMLI goes beyond giving
information and works to build up positive cultural norms,
and change those values that are permissive to the spread of HIV.

One important facet of FAMLI AIDS CCP is the “Circle of
Life” which revolves around Fertility Awareness Education.
Relying on the user-friendly Bead System of counting the
days of the menstrual cycle to monitor fertility, the Circle
of Life promotes healthy and natural family planning that
empowers the woman and seeks to increase the respect she
receives within the family. Through an awareness of her own
body’s rhythms, a woman and her husband can make informed
and natural decisions regarding her reproductive health and
family well-being.

Another initiative of the programme is the Youth Alive
Movement, begun originally in Uganda by Sr Kay Lawlor MMM
and now spread to many parts of Africa. Youth Alive aims to
equip young people with the necessary skills to form mature
and loving ways of life, so that they do not succumb to HIV.
This is a proactive approach, encouraging communication and
raising inner awareness, so that the choices made by young
people might be grounded in their own reality, and not just
empty talk.

Thus FAMLI’s work builds on the multiplier effect — every
person changed becomes an agent for change in his or her own
community, and those touched by FAMLI are making strides
together in the struggle against HIV and AIDS in Malawi.

Contact: Richard Cremins SJ famli@africa-online.net


CHURCH OF KISANGANI NOT ON THE SIDELINES

“Kisangani, arise, awake and work, get going!” This is the
exhortation of a 32-page booklet entitled “The Church of
Kisangani faces the AIDS Pandemic.” The booklet shares the
deliberations of a panel organized by “Parlons-SIDA” (“Let’s
Talk about AIDS”) on 26 November 2003 for the pastoral
workers of Kisangani in the eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo. It deals with various aspects of HIV/AIDS as well as
several ways of fighting this illness, which is creating
terror in Africa. It takes action against non-information or
“misinformation,” the primary causes of the spread of the
virus and of the illness. A catastrophe of humanity,
HIV/AIDS is not a punishment from God. It is not a new flood
to chastise humanity. Everyone shares some responsibility
for the good and the evil that are done in the world.
Universal solidarity must be re-established in order to
strengthen the struggle against this pandemic. “Listen to
the cry of man,” in the words of Pope John Paul II, “and you
will hear the cry of God.” A personal and community duty is
imposed upon one and all and particularly upon pastoral
workers, the trainers of trainers. The Church is involved
and must continue to be involved in programmes for raising
awareness as well as for care and treatment. People share
their experiences of caring for the sick at home and in
hospitals. The goal of “Parlons-SIDA” is to inform
correctly, to educate and raise the awareness of the
population of Mangobo and all Kisangani, without excluding
the rest of the Archdiocese, about the modes of transmission
of HIV and the ways to avoid it, stressing the necessary
changes of behaviour and various means of offering care.

The booklet, published by MEDIASPAUL-Kinshasa, can be
ordered from Rigobert Kyungu SJ kyungusj@yahoo.fr or
Parlons-SIDA@jesuits.net for 5 euros which includes the
cost of shipping.


HIV+WOMEN IN HIV/AIDS MINISTRY

She is HIV+, a mother of three, and she goes from parish to
parish educating and sharing her experience. Joining her is
a young teacher, also HIV+, who is being trained in
counselling in order to get involved in the same ministry of
raising awareness. These two women were drawn into this
commitment by Groum Tesfaye SJ who for several years has
regularly taken students from the Siddist Kilo University in
Ethiopia on retreat at the Archdiocese of Addis Ababa’s
Galilee Centre in Debre Zeit. The first woman benefited from
this spiritual accompaniment and now tries to re-establish
her life in the struggle against HIV and AIDS. During a
retreat her witness touched the younger woman and motivated
her to reveal her own status to Fr Tesfaye. She had lost all
hope and found herself thinking more and more often about
death. She had been invited to the USA and, to apply for the
visa, she had to take the test and discovered that she was
HIV-positive. Her fiancé killed himself because he knew that
he was positive and had passed the disease on to her.
HIV+ people giving witness certainly have great impact. It
is significant to hear someone like oneself say, “I was
completely stupid when I did that! I was stupid to drink so
much and to lose all control. I was stupid to go to that bar
where I knew very well what would happen. And now I have to
live with the consequences of my stupidity, and others are
affected by it, too.”

“In the villages,” says Fr Groum, “when a woman free to
speak about HIV/AIDS addresses the village women in their
own language and traditional expressions, the impact is far
greater. We need to work with girls in terms of sexual
education because through them we reach the boys, and so
their training will have repercussions among them both.”
In their Message for World AIDS Day on 1 December 2003, the
African Bishops for the first time call these persons to
ministry in the Church: “We commit ourselves to encourage
people living with HIV/AIDS or affected by it to become
actively involved, in our local communities, as resource
persons in the struggle against the pandemic.” And they
deserve encouragement and need training in order to educate
others.

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