Interview of Fr. Martin Trieb O.S.B. with Fr. Gérard T. Lagleder O.S.B.

What is the social context of Mandeni?

Until 40 years ago this area was dense bush. Then a big paper factory was built here and had to employ many workers. These workers were recruited in the surrounding areas and settled in the vicinity of the factory. According to the former apartheid system, which was still in power in those days, there was a large township, a ghetto for black people and there was a settlement for white people, a settlement for Indians and a settlement for coloured people. In this black ghetto the people are housed in partly very poor circumstances, which is a breeding ground of sickness, of course. But that is not all. There is very severe poverty here in our area. The official unemployment rate for the country is 52% of the employable population. This causes people to take desperate measures, just to survive. If I do not know how to pay for my rent, if I do not know what to put on the table to eat, if I do not know how to clothe myself and my children, then one might often choose methods and ways which they normally would not consider. That is why unfortunately prostitution became very common here. Young women and girls give themselves away, so that at least they can earn a living for themselves and their children. That, of course is a breeding ground for HIV / AIDS and therefore the disaster is pre-programmed. Unfortunately it is extremely difficult; to wean people off such behaviour and to fail once, is enough to endanger ones entire life. In other words: One single incident of intercourse with an HIV / AIDS carrier can be a death sentence. Therefore it is extremely difficult in our AIDS education to make it clear to people how they should behave. 88% of people tested for AIDS in our area of Sundumbili and Isithebe are HIV-positive. This is the overwhelming truth. One asks: “Can that be possible at all?” But we see it day by day that it is the very sad reality.

It is a very difficult task to tell people „You must avoid contracting HIV / AIDS”, when we talk to a group who, purely from a statistical point of view, nine out of ten are HIV-positive. Therefore we changed our way of AIDS education. We now talk to them about their responsibilities of living with HIV / AIDS. Their responsibility, if they are positive, to themselves and their partner, to their family and community. How they should not infect or re-infect other people, how they should behave and live in a way where their life is as worth living as possible. We give them hope that they can live a healthy and happy life as long as possible, by following certain guidelines.

This page is part of "An everlasting brotherhood" - Preparations for a video film about the Brotherhood of Blessed Gérard


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