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THE CHURCHES RESPONSE TO THE HIVAIDS PANDEMIC A CASE STUDY OF

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					THE CHURCHES’ RESPONSE TO THE HIV/AIDS PANDEMIC: A CASE STUDY OF CHRISTIAN AGENCIES IN THE CAPE TOWN AREA

BARBARA MARIA SCHMID

Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MSocSci in the Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Cape Town. Supervisor: Prof James R. Cochrane Cape Town, February 2002

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ABSTRACT

It is two decades since the start of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Since then it has caused the death of millions and untold suffering to many more, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, while some Christian response soon developed, until a few years ago the majority of churches have struggled to recognise in this disaster a challenge to themselves. The last few years have seen a flurry of activity from churches and Christian agencies in this field. New AIDS ministries are springing up, often in a rather haphazard fashion. This study aims to establish what the response of churches and Christian groups in the Cape Town area is to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The starting point for the response lies in the perceptions shaping the churches’ AIDS discourse, since church activities are to a large degree discourse based. Hence the study starts with an investigation of the relationship between discourse and practice, paying special attention to the common metaphors and discourses used when referring to HIV/AIDS. Since the African context is crucial to the way HIV/AIDS is developing here, questions are posed to these discourses from an African point of view. The study further considers the type of programmes emerging from this discourse. A survey was conducted by questionnaire in the Cape Town area to collect information from 30 Christian service providers and denominations. The aim is to evaluate whether the response is appropriate to the needs, to our African context and to the churches’ mission. It is my hypothesis that while the Christian contribution to AIDS services is valuable, it is in many respects not appropriate. To support this hypothesis the study develops criteria for an appropriate AIDS discourse, and based on that for an appropriate practical response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. These were derived from relevant literature as well as a series of informal interviews with local AIDS activists. Finally some pointers are given as to how the Christian response to HIV/AIDS could be developed on a solid theological foundation in order to offer a service that is more appropriate to the needs, to our African context and to the churches’ mission.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Abstract Acknowledgements List of abbreviations List of appendices

ii vi vii vii

1. Introduction 1.1. Motivation 1.2. Scope of the study 1.3. Key concepts 1.4. Rationale for the focus on churches 1.5. The research process 1.6. Structure of the study

1 1 2 3 4 6 8

2. The AIDS discourses: Theoretical framework for understanding the churches’ response 9 2.1. The connection between discourse and practice 2.2. The metaphors of AIDS 2.3. The discourses of HIV/AIDS 2.3.1. Medical discourse 2.3.2. Development discourse 2.3.3. Medico-moral discourse 2.3.4. Legal discourse and human rights covenants 2.3.5. Ethical discourse 2.3.6. Activist discourse 2.4. Conclusions about the language of HIV/AIDS in Africa 2.5. Concluding comments 9 17 20 20 23 23 24 25 25 26 31

3. Criteria for an appropriate response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic 32 3.1. Some criteria for an appropriate discourse on HIV/AIDS 3.1.1. Breaking the silence 3.1.1.1. Understanding the silence 3.1.1.2. Why it is necessary to break the silence 33 33 33 37

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3.1.2. AIDS discourse that counters stigmatisation 3.1.2.1. The stigma around HIV/AIDS 3.1.2.2. How current AIDS discourses contribute to stigma 3.1.2.3. Why it is necessary to overcome stigma 3.1.3. AIDS discourse stressing not only personal, but also societal aspects 3.1.3.1. The ecology of AIDS 3.1.3.2. Poverty 3.1.3.3. Gender and patriarchy 3.1.3.4. Migrant labour 3.1.3.5. Why this is important 3.1.4. Finding a common Christian discourse 3.2. Some criteria for an appropriate practical response to HIV/AIDS 3.2.1. Response covering the spectrum of needs 3.2.1.1. Prevention 3.2.1.2. Care 3.2.1.3. Counselling and support for those affected by HIV 3.2.1.4. Orphans and vulnerable children 3.2.1.5. Gendered nature of AIDS: The need to target men 3.2.1.6. Lobbying and involvement to counter the social causes of AIDS 3.2.1.7. Theological response and worship 3.2.2. Response addressing the scale of need 3.2.3. Response appropriate to the Church’s self-understanding 3.2.3.1. Develop a theological response to HIV/AIDS 3.2.3.2. God’s preferential option for the poor 3.2.3.3. Biblical metaphor of prophecy 3.2.3.4. Community 3.2.3.5. Providing safe spaces 3.2.3.6. Overcoming the attitude of judgement 3.2.3.7. Taking a stand against superstition 3.3. Concluding comments

39 39 41 42 44 46 49 50 54 55 55 58 58 59 62 63 64 66 67 70 71 74 75 77 77 78 78 79 80 81

4. The current response of churches to HIV/AIDS 4.1. Views of some churches on how they ought to be responding 4.2. The response of Southern African churches in general 4.2.1. Looking back over the early years of the pandemic 4.2.2. Current trends 4.3. The response of selected denominations in the Cape Town area 4.3.1. Groups included in the survey 4.3.2. HIV/AIDS discourse 4.3.3. HIV/AIDS services offered 4.4. Conclusions from comparing the “ought” with the “is”

82 82 85 85 86 88 88 90 91 98

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4.5. Concluding comments

99

5. Evaluation and conclusions 5.1. Locating the evaluation within the theoretical framework 5.2. Evaluation of responses 5.2.1. The degree to which the response satisfies the criteria of appropriateness 5.2.2. Areas of concern regarding the response of churches 5.2.2.1. Ambiguity 5.2.2.2. Speaking in public vs. Speaking inside 5.2.2.3. Traditional care vs. Prevention 5.2.2.4. Institutional responses vs. Building communities 5.2.2.5. Doing our own thing vs. Joining hands 5.2.2.6. Charity vs. Activism 5.2.2.7. The poor vs. The rich 5.2.2.8. Men vs. Women 5.2.2.9. Western solutions vs. African solutions 5.2.2.10. Dealing with sin vs. Dealing with a virus 5.2.2.11. AIDS services vs. AIDS ministries 5.2.2.12. Guilt vs. Innocence 5.3. Some implications for the churches 5.3.1. Developing a theological framework 5.3.2. Leadership 5.3.3. Breaking the silence/Addressing the stigma 5.3.4. Dealing with spiritual challenges 5.3.5. Addressing the cultural divide 5.3.6. Networking and cooperation 5.3.7. Some practical challenges 5.4. Implications for future research 5.4.1. Theology of sexuality 5.4.2. Theology of death 5.4.3. “Othering” 5.4.4. AIDS is a secular issue 5.5. Conclusion

100 100 102 102 105 105 107 108 108 109 110 110 111 112 113 114 114 115 115 116 117 119 121 121 122 122 123 124 125 126 126

6.

Bibliography

127 127 134 136

Books and Articles Published in Academic Journals Articles in newspapers and popular magazines Unpublished Documents

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