AIDS is a declared priority for the ZAM Province of the Jesuits. Two landmark meetings organised in recent years gave further shape to the unique contribution that Jesuits can bring to the struggle against the pandemic. One of the meetings, which were organised by the social apostolate committee of the province, focused on Jesuit spirituality as a means of sustaining and people affected by AIDS as well as co-workers.
Participants of the other meeting considered how the parish is a “privileged place for fighting HIV and AIDS”. In fact, in the ZAM Province, most of the Jesuit responses to HIV and AIDS are parish-based. Parishes offer pastoral ministry to those infected and affected, visiting and anointing the very ill, organising funerals and supporting the bereaved.
Most parishes have home-based care (HBC) projects run by volunteer caregivers, usually drawn from Small Christian Communities (SCCs). Nowadays, as fewer patients are in need of intensive physical care, thanks to antiretroviral treatment (ART), attention is shifting somewhat to orphans and vulnerable children. Most HBC projects have income-generating activities to fund their work and to help the people they support to survive. One such project is found at St Mary’s Parish in Matero, on the outskirts of Lusaka, and another at Chikuni Parish in southern Zambia.
The two social development centres of the Province – the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) and the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC)– tackle AIDS as a crosscutting priority issue. The KATC offers short courses in organic, sustainable agriculture to produce crops that are healthier and more nutritious, richer in minerals and vitamins. The courses feature an HIV-AIDS module, which explains how organic agriculture alleviates poverty, boosts food security and provides more nutritious food, which is useful for both prevention of HIV and for the care of those who are positive.