“For those who were infected with HIV or AIDS in the 1990s, this meant a certain death sentence. At that time, it particularly affected a large number of young people. Iris was founded in 1992 to alleviate the psychological suffering of these people and help them cope with imminent death. Five years later, Caritas established a residential community at Haus Emmaus to provide medical and human care to the sick, “Charity Director Franz Kripp recalled at the beginning of both services, quoting Goethe:” Here I am, I can be here. “
More than 1,500 people accompanied and 200 accepted
Since the first volunteers completed the training, Dienst Iris has accompanied more than 1,500 people, provided more than 5,000 hours of individual therapy, organized training and built a network of relationships with Haus Emmaus.
During these 25 years, about 200 people were admitted to the “Haus Emmaus”, including men and women who were either carriers of the virus or were or are already ill. An individual project is developed for each of them, which responds to the specific experience and needs of the person concerned.
The risks are still great
From the very beginning, both services have worked closely with the Infectious Diseases Department of Bolzano Hospital, as Dr. Elke Maria Erne, head of department, emphasizes. She also said that the introduction of antiretroviral treatment has significantly improved the quality of life of HIV-positive people.
“Because AIDS is now defined as a chronic disease rather than a fatal disease, the attention paid to HIV has changed significantly. This has the unfortunate effect of talking too little about the topic, while the risks are still high, ”says Primarin.
In addition, there is still strong stigma associated with HIV infection, expressed not only medically but also in the form of prejudices.
Voluntary support is required
“We moved from the morbid visibility of the first few days with a great media response to the invisibility. Both lead to exclusion, and this is exactly what we are trying to face with our work, “explains the psychologist and psychotherapist Pierpaolo Patrizi, who runs the Iris service.
The support of volunteers is extremely important, as volunteer Iris Fera Franceschini testified with her stories at the press conference.
“Do everything we can to create a positive experience for our guests”
Katiuscia Cabras, director of Haus Emmaus, also emphasized the need to talk openly about infectious diseases in order to deal with misinformation and forms of exclusion.
“For us at Caritas, this means approaching people with disabilities, listening to them and responding to their ever-changing needs. Although we still accompany the disabled in their final stages of life, we also lead them to life by taking into account the social aspects of the sick and doing everything we can to create a positive experience for our guests, ”says Cabras.
More activities planned
He therefore hopes that after 2.5 years of coronavirus pandemics, he will once again be able to offer more activities that will facilitate the meeting of the facility’s guests with the company.
Such an event took place, for example, on June 11 with a garden party to which all interested parties were invited. The exchange with schools should be resumed and for pilgrims who ascend to Maria Weißenstein on foot (the pilgrimage route starts at the Emmaus House), a small refreshment station is being considered, as in the time before Corona.
“Finally, I would like to thank all the volunteers and staff of both services who have worked hard in recent years to combat prejudice and promote the social inclusion of people living with HIV or AIDS. The close cooperation and networking that Iris and Emmaus have established not only with the Bolzano Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Unit, but also with the local addiction clinics, the Mental Health Center and the External Prisons Office (Uepe) is also crucial, “said Caritas Danilo, responsible manager of the department. Tucconi good connection of all actors.