Hope for Melburnians living with HIV/AIDSTuesday 21 May 2013
By Edwina Hall
TODAY in downtown Brunswick St, the Church is journeying with people who have HIV/AIDS, through CatholicCare’s Catholic AIDS Ministry. Coordinator, Marg Hayes, has a beautiful smile that mirrors her vision – “to provide a place of hospitality and welcome for people with HIV/AIDS and their families and friends.” This program is made possible by the Chaplaincy Sunday Appeal, being conducted in Melbourne parishes and online throughout the month of May.
Edwina Hall, from Kairos Catholic Journal, recently caught up with Marg to learn more about this important area of Catholic chaplaincy.
Tell me about CatholicCare’s Catholic HIV/AIDS Ministry.
It is very much about hospitality and welcome for people with HIV/AIDS and their families and friends. Our role is about walking with people who have this disease and educating people about it to remove the stigma that goes with HIV and AIDS. We also provide general support for people with HIV or AIDS living in the community, in hospital, in prison or wherever else they live.
We are also here to support family and friends of people who die from this disease. Each year, we have a Remembering Mass for people who have died.
How long have you worked in this ministry and how have you seen it change?
When I first began here in 2001, our main focus was with pastoral care for the dying and chaplaincy. Once HAART (a treatment to suppress HIV viral replication and the progression of HIV disease) was discovered in 1996, people began to live with HIV rather than die from it, so the ministry needed to change and become more active in the community.
What kind of support do you offer people?
Our biggest concern is that people with HIV or AIDS experience hospitality and welcome, because people with this disease tend to think that the world cannot stand them, that they are the modern-day lepers.
Women will often say that they feel dirty because they have the virus, men will often say that they feel people will not want to know them and that they must not let anyone know they have the disease.
What are some of your plans for this year?
Each year in August we have School AIDS Day and that involves schools getting involved and learning something about HIV and AIDS. I am available to speak in parishes to talk about AIDS and this ministry and how we can pray for people and support people with this disease.
We also educate people within the HIV/AIDS community that the Church is there for them.
Each Monday, we have a lunch for people living with HIV/AIDS. Our aim at that table is that you would not know who has the virus and who does not.
Who should contact your office?
People living with HIV/AIDS, partners, families and friends, and people who want to know more about HIV/AIDS or this ministry.
Anything to add?
HIV is a blood-borne virus and is very difficult to get into your system. You do not ‘catch’ HIV, it is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids.
Mass is held for People Living with HIV/AIDS on the second Tuesday of each month at St Francis’ Church, Melbourne, at 5.30pm.
To contact CatholicCare’s, Catholic AIDS Ministry, call 8417 1280
To donate to this ministry via the Archbishop’s Charitable Fund, Chaplaincy Sunday Appeal, CLICK HERE
SHARED FROM ARCHDIOCESE OF MELBOURNE