|by John Sivalon
I doubt that there is anyone in sub-Saharan Africa who can actually say that they don't know somebody personally who has been affected by the Aids epidemic. In Tanzania, Namibia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mozambique and elsewhere, from Presidents to peasant farmers, they have all seen either their own children, their nephews and nieces or their neighbors and colleagues' children die. They have seen their spouses and peers die. And below the surface, for everyone, there is an underlying fear that maybe they also are sick. Recently, I consoled someone whose hands were trembling and body was shaking as she tried to vocalize her greatest fear. "Am I sick?"
As we start this new millennium, 23.3 million Africans south of the Sahara are estimated to be infected or suffering from Aids. According to the WHO figures, that is 70% of the world's infected in a Region with 10% of the world's population. The same group estimates that 90% of all children born with or infected through breast feeding in 1999 were in sub-Saharan Africa. Studies in a Kenya commercial enterprise found 25% of the workforce to be HIV positive. The BBC also announced the findings of a study in Kenya which found the prevalence rate in students between 13 and 17 years old to be 20%. These young people will shortly be going into the period when they will be most sexually active. It was just announced that South Africa has an estimated rate of 10% of the total population and 35% of pregnant women in Kwazulu region.
When you personally witness the suffering of your friends, relatives and neighbors, there is no question that anyone deserves this. When you see the havoc that this disease wreaks on the human body and the toll that it takes on the human psyche, no one can stand in judgment. The act of bringing life is bringing suffering and death, and we are about to lose a population.
In the Africa Region everyone in one way or another ministers to people with AIDS. However, there are special projects and programs in which our members are involved that are specifically aimed at ministering to people sick with AIDS or their families. This section gives expression to their reflections on their own experience. Fr. Ed Phillips directs a large program in Nairobi based on small Christian Communities. Br. John Mullen has a similar program in Mombasa. Fr. Rick Bauer is director of the nation wide Aids program created by the Bishops of Namibia. Tanzania recently welcomed Fr. Mike Bassano after completing a ten-year ministry to AIDS patients in Thailand. Fr. Ken Sullivan has retired to a new ministry of home visitation of AIDS patients in Musoma. In Mwanza, Fr. John Eybel trained MDS counselors in his CPE program. Finally, our resident scholar, Fr. Lance Nadeau, is completing his doctoral research into AIDS ministry in East Africa and shares some of his reflections. We present these reflections as a way of inviting you to join our region in whatever way you wish in this crucial ministry.