Surviving the Forgotten Pandemic and the Role of the Catholic Church: A Challenge to AIDS and a Fight for Life Among South Africa's Migrants

Abstract

In 2014, a motley group of volunteers with HIV, led by a determined mother superior, was evicted from a home in Johannesburg run by the Sisters of Nazareth. The beautiful facility, replete with sprawling gardens, was in a poor, crowded neighborhood in South Africa’s largest city and had served thousands of migrants with HIV and AIDS. Following the eviction, the migrants whose lives they had saved found a padlocked door where they once received vital medications and where their support group met. Left with no more than a stapler, a filing cabinet, and a few plastic chairs, these volunteers scrambled to find a new space where they could continue providing services to the large number of international migrants living with HIV in Johannesburg’s inner-city. On a shoestring budget, they launched the Sister Mura Foundation (SMF). This paper examines the contemporary HIV and AIDS crisis in Southern Africa by telling the stories of the people who built organization and those who have sought support and community from it. We conduct roughly 50 in-depth, open-ended interviews with migrants about their experiences having and surviving HIV and AIDS in South Africa. We explore the role of the Catholic Church which, for a time, was the only nationwide organization in South Africa to provide healthcare, therapy, and information to migrants. As AIDS transitions in Southern Africa from a fatal illness to a chronic disease, we explore the continued need of migrants for health access.

Presenters

Ron Nerio
Research Programs Director, CUNY Office of Research, City University of New York, New York, United States

Details

Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Theme

The Politics of Religion

KEYWORDS

Catholicism, Catholic Church, HIV and AIDS, Migrants, South Africa, Health

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