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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.


MISSION TO SERVE

A communiqué from the Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference
of Nigeria:

8. Care for those Living with HIV/AIDS

We thank God that the situation has improved in the care for those living with
HIV/AIDS in our midst. While we commend local organizations and individuals who
indicate interest to offer services to these afflicted Nigerians, we urge that
their actions be better coordinated. It is unfortunate that prevention, care and
eradication of HIV/AIDS have become for some another unscrupulous way to amass
wealth. We call on medical personnel and philanthropic Nigerians to continue to
work assiduously for the control with the hope of total eradication of this
pandemic in our society. We should intensify our efforts in removing any
stigmatization associated with victims of this ailment.

Most Rev John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja and President, Catholic Bishops
Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), and Most Rev Lucius Ugorji, Bishop of Umuahia and
Secretary of the CBCN

Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria, 17 September 2004


TO SPEAK OPENLY

Silveira House in Zimbabwe is a civil-society organisation directed by the
Society of Jesus. It engages in community development through training, and in
advocacy and research towards the empowerment of locals to better take charge of
the development of their communities. Founded 40 years ago by Jesuit Fr. John
Dove, Silveira House has witnessed a great many upheavals in Zimbabwe’s history,
according it a maturity that informs its activities during the present
socio-economic hardships.

With the loss of urban jobs and lack of opportunities in rural areas, many
Zimbabweans are living these hardships. Most 15-25 year olds leave home to seek
already scarce employment. Girls are forced into commercial sex work, for
example, on the Harare-Nyampanda road that passes through Murehwa District.

HIV/AIDS is ravaging the Murehwa population. AIDS patients are more often than
not sent home from hospitals, where their relatives are ignorant about the
disease and cannot afford nutritious meals to fight it.

In response to this, the local District Nursing Officer approached Silveira
House to conduct an awareness programme. Based in Murehwa District, which in a
recent study recorded a 75% seroprevalence rate, the programme promotes
behaviour change and community ownership. It serves to share information on
HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) through workshops, debates and
role-plays. It is conducted by peer educators.

The programme also teaches home-based care skills to volunteers who in turn
teach others. Caregivers receive a kit which contains readily available domestic
bleach (Jik), soap, bicarbonate of soda, draw sheets, latex or rubber gloves,
mackintosh and petroleum jelly. Since the programme’s debut, primary caregivers
run less risk of contracting the virus, now that they have adequate protective
materials. They are also well-informed on nutrition, disinfection and tending
wounds.

The peer educators disseminate their learnt information in community gatherings.
Traditional leaders, like village heads, are very supportive. Both men and women
participate in the workshops, raising critical issues such as wife inheritance
and domestic violence. Men are challenged to correct their risky behaviours.

Murehwa community has seen changes especially through peer education, for
example, about the dangers of promiscuity, STDs and their link to HIV/AIDS.
Moreover, about “these things”, they now speak openly.

Contact the Silveira House director: Dieter Scholz SJ
dbscholz@silveira.co.zw


HELPING TO CHOOSE LIFE

The HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to wreak havoc. It is nothing less than a
tragedy menacing the Church in Africa and African society in general. Acts of
love and the promotion of life must permeate all attempts at prevention and
care-giving. Further teaching to reinforce the choice of life must accompany the
practical initiatives of Christians. Since the 1980s, in these sad
circumstances, the Bishops of Africa and Madagascar have unstintingly carried
the torch of the evangelical message, a message of life and of love. Only just
published, the book “Bishops of Africa and Madagascar Speak Out on HIV & AIDS,”
a collection of the Bishops’ teachings, provides a focus of research and
reflection.

Fr Mário Almeida was an intern at AJAN House from 17 June to 2 September 2004
and is contributing significantly to the efforts of the network. He is making a
theological contribution to the Church’s response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic,
starting with the Bishops’ declarations. Mário is doing this work in the context
of his thesis for the license in moral theology at Berkeley in California.

The teaching of the Bishops is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in the
traditions of the Church. It raises delicate questions that are hotly contested.
There is a real urgency to make God’s Love explicit through the Bishops’
messages. In his analysis, Mário takes up various themes and questions raised by
the book that put the accent on protection and on acknowledging the value of
human life. “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full”
(John 10:10). Among the subjects that his work considers are: the controversial
subject of massive campaigns of condom distribution as the primary preventive
measure; the impact of certain cultural practices on the illness; and the need
for changes in sexual behaviour. Mário helped to compile the Bishops’ texts and
is working on the publication of the Portuguese edition.

Contact : Mário Almeida SJ
marioalmeidasj@hotmail.com


SPREADING RAYS OF HOPE

The people of God gathered to be illuminated by “Rays of Hope,” the manual
written by Paterne Mombe SJ to help in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. The
official launch of “Rays of Hope,” on 2 September at Holy Family Basilica in
Nairobi, was organized through the joint efforts of the staff of Paulines
Publications and AJAN.

“My people are dying of ignorance” (Hosea 4:6) was the theme of the event,
underscoring the lack of information as one of the major causes of the spreading
of the disease. Many people dedicated in the struggle took part in the launch.
Fr Michael Czerny SJ opened the ceremony with a prayer based on the challenge
posed by our Holy Father Pope John Paul II to the Church on our continent: “The
battle against AIDS ought to be everyone’s battle. Echoing the voice of the
Synod Fathers, I too ask pastoral workers to bring to their brothers and sisters
affected by AIDS all possible material, moral and spiritual comfort. I urgently
ask the world’s scientists and political leaders, moved by the love and respect
due to every human person, to use every means available in order to put an end
to this scourge” (Ecclesia in Africa, 14 September 1995, no. 116).

Dr. Margaret Ogola, Secretary of the Kenyan Church’s Commission for Health and
Family Life, developed a theological approach. “As a Christian,” she said, “the
question in my mind then is not so much ‘What must I do?’ but ‘Who am I in the
face of all this?’ Unless I know who I am, how can I reach out with deep empathy
to my neighbour, ravaged by disease and immolated by poverty?” A continuous act
of love is required. “Does my love transcend personal judgment about other
people’s morals and their culpability? Does my love transcend fear of getting
infected?” Then Alice Njoroge, sharing her practical experience as a nurse in
the Eastern Deanery of Nairobi, showed that HIV/AIDS is a call for
“compassionate care, unconditional love and respect, unconditional acceptance,
self-giving and sacrifice.” HIV is a great challenge to be more human.

Presenting his book, Mombe shared the dream which led him to write a treatment
manual. “I do believe,” he testified, “that many of those who died from AIDS
would have lived longer had they been broadly informed about the HIV infection
and how to manage it.” Good nutrition is one way to resist AIDS and fight the
opportunistic diseases, and the manual gives enough information about various
foods to use singly or in combination to fight opportunistic infections. Sr.
Teresa Marcazzan, director of Paulines Publications and publisher of the manual
in collaboration with the African Jesuit AIDS Network, compared a good book with
a diamond. It is only after the long and hard work of digging deep in the earth,
and only after the long and careful work of polishing, that a precious stone
like “Rays of Hope” emerges. Everyone should get this treasure!

The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci, officially launched “Rays of
Hope” and strongly criticised all forms of stigma and discrimination. “HIV/AIDS
is not a sin but an illness to heal and great suffering to care for. The
Catholic Church has chosen to care for infected and affected people with love
and without judgement. ‘Rays of Hope’ is an invitation to go further

81ENG
Responding to the HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa

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