In the country with the world’s largest AIDS epidemic, the Jesuits naturally support those affected by AIDS and seek to stem the further spread of AIDS in the course of their daily work. Jesuits in South Africa work as university and school chaplains, parish priests, lecturers in philosophy and theology, spiritual and retreat directors, teachers in seminaries and with refugees.
A key contribution is helping South Africans – as individuals, as families, as communities and as Church – to learn to accept and live with AIDS. One Jesuit to do this from a novel and imaginative perspective is Fr Peter Knox SJ, who wrote a book exploring links between the pandemic, the Catholic Church and the important South African tradition of the ancestors cult.
Important ministry is under way in parishes. In Cape Town, Fr Matsepane Morare SJ works as parish priest of St Mary’s Church, Nyanga, which has a very high TB infection rate, fuelled both by serious poverty and high HIV prevalence. Using the methodologies of Education for Life (EFL) and peer education, the parish team have worked hard to educate youth in the context of values that will help them make the right choices in the tough surroundings in which they live.
At the Holy Trinity Parish in Johannesburg, a small group of medical students runs a basic clinic for the homeless. The clinic offers voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) and those who test positive are referred to local clinics. In 2011, the medical service, conducted together with NGOs, undertook epidemiological research about the incidence of HIV among the homeless people served.