Leifers – Caritas has been supporting and accompanying people who are HIV positive or AIDS for 30 years and has run the Haus Emmaus residential community in Leifers for 25 years. Although the topic has largely disappeared from the public eye, prejudice against those concerned has unfortunately not. “Today, the disease is well treatable, living with HIV and AIDS is possible. However, scientific progress must be followed by social progress, ”said Charity Director Franz Kripp at a press conference in Haus Emmaus’s garden on the occasion of two business anniversaries.
“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 set up 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. “
Since the first volunteers completed the training, the Iris Ministry has accompanied more than 1,500 people, provided more than 5,000 hours of individual therapy, organized training courses and developed a network of relationships with the Emmaus House. During these 25 years, about 200 people were admitted to 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.
From the very beginning, both services have worked closely with the Infectious Diseases Department of Bolzano Hospital, because 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 no longer defined as a deadly disease, but a chronic 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. “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 counter 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.
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 continue to accompany the disabled in the final stages of life, we also lead them to life, we take into account the social aspects of the sick and we do everything we can to create a positive experience for our guests, ”says Cabras. He therefore hopes that after two and a half years of coronavirus pandemics, it will be able to offer more activities again, which 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.