An update

COVID-19. The latest on our work

For all COVID-19 information including how to protect you and yours, on cocooning and self isolation and how to access testing see: www.hse.ie/coronavirus

UPDATE: 29th May – Returning to the Workplaces

We are currently planning for returning to our workplaces. Note that we are not returning to work, we never went away. The past 10 weeks have been among the most challenging of our 28-year history.  Rather our admin office, the homes of those we support, local parks and cafés may become places where we can encounter again those we support and serve. There will be lots to work through next week, not just the logistics of what is allowed but the reflections on what is ethical. At the heart of these discussions will be our values, particularly the mutuality of “Drinking from the Same Cup.” Please remember us as we work through how best we can support and serve the people and communities we have the privilege of walking alongside.

UPDATE: 20th May – Light at the end….

Our Inboxes are full of the Return to Work Safely Protocol and associated instructions from funders. While our work remains remote with various supports and communications still being delivered by phone and screen we have been carefully studying the phases of reopening through to August that will inform our work practices for the coming months. The need for our work remains as acute as ever with significant mental health and anxiety challenges adding to the complexity of the supports we provide for those living with and affected by HIV. Meanwhile, communities of migrant origin are helped by the health information on COVID-19 and by the translation of that information into many languages, yet still profound cultural gaps remain in communication requiring steady presence and patience.

We are also aware that the reopening will likely be far more challenging than the lockdown. In the middle of March we were ready for what the uncertain Spring would bring, our ‘tanks were full’ and we adapted well. Now exhaustion is not far away we are making sure to support one another for the cautious steps ahead. Our team, with over 100 years experience working on a pandemic, are ready for whatever the next chapter of our story will bring.

Thank you to all our supporters who have been in touch to pray for us and financially give. Your donations are deeply appreciated and are helping us continue through this challenging time. If you would like to support our work please do. More details are available here.

UPDATE: 24th April – Into the Valley

Sadly the last week has been marked by loss and no small amount of grief. The death of extended family members among those we support, including one we were very close to,  and of one faith community leader in Dublin have demonstrated how close the impact of COVID-19 is to us. Our extensive experience of mourning with those who mourn in a pandemic is real once again and it does not get any easier.

We are currently preparing for the various options that might emerge for 5th May, including recognising that the lifting of restrictions may be very limited. This may only add to the challenges that those we support experience. We have learned, the hard way, the value of eye contact and touch and shared tables and we miss the connection that they bring.

We are also acutely aware that any possible reopening will be very challenging. It will not be one big party. Trauma, grief and loss are complex and layered and so a sharing, collaboration and solidarity will be demanded in new ways. These are challenges we look forward to as we hope for new beginnings.

 

UPDATE: Holy Week 2020

There are two pandemics in the world today. We are working on both.

Sharing a cup of tea or being at table together — whether with clients, staff, or partner organisations — is core to ACET Ireland’s values.

This season is difficult for everyone and ACET’s care work is a daily challenge as the physical connection we form with those we support at a kitchen table or a community café really matters. However, WhatsApp, Zoom, text and old-fashioned phone calls are bridging the distance between us. As individuals and families affected by HIV see increased anxiety and fear each day, our staff are there with reassuring words, practical supports and a listening ear.

Although ACET’s staff are defined as essential workers under the government’s latest guidelines and are allowed travel away from home, we have been asked to keep any visits, even if delivering essential items, to an absolute minimum. With that and some staff members cocooning at home, we are using centralised resources, including our local authorities’ initiatives and HSE-funded partners, where we can.

Faith Communities:
We continue to keep faith communities including churches informed on both pandemics, including with the HSE resources. Again, information itself is only a fragment of our work and tells an incomplete story. It is the richness of faith, hope and love in action in that unites us.

Thank you for all your support.

Lamenting and Hoping

“Oh! How empty the city, once teeming with people.” Lamentations 1:1

The images of deserted streets in cities across the world are among the most striking of this extraordinary time. The opening jab of Lamentations, referring of course to Jerusalem, stresses that the prophetic words are linked to a place as much as to a people. The empty Temple, walls, gates and streets evoke the weeping and remind us that we cannot divorce ourselves from the ground beneath our feet or the neighbours we share our places with.

There are exactly two pandemics in the world today and ACET is working on both. Our experience is that lamenting the 35 million deaths of the AIDS pandemic, which will soon reach its 40th birthday, rapidly became a lament of the places where these lives were lived. This was the case whether that place was within a city with communities of profound socio-economic disparity lying adjacent to one another or the global inequality that is also driving COVID-19 or the way in which the lives of minority communities, particularly gay and bisexual men, were driven to the margins even within the familiar places of homes, schools and churches.

COVID-19 is not a ‘great leveller’ as some speculate. It impacts people and places, both far from and near our homes in different ways. The places of note for this pandemic are our supermarkets, our hospitals, our public transport services, cramped housing conditions and the lack of green urban spaces all of which involve workers and residents in roles our society considers lesser as we elevate those with the wealth to cocoon or isolate safely. 

So why lament? Lamenting draws us deep into the fault lines of injustice of which we were previously unaware. It will not leave us tolerant of the inequalities that catalyse our crises. It is an action that is both an end in itself and an opening to transformation. It puts to death the ‘wisdom of the world’ that suggests we can generate ideas and solutions to crises on our own if we are just creative and innovative enough or if we have collected enough data. Walter Brueggemann outlines the prophetic tasks of the church in such a time this as the need to “tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion, grieve in a society that practices denial, and express hope in a society that lives in despair.”

I can but speculate on what specific illusions, denials, and despairs a lamentation of COVID-19 will dismantle though it is clear that, like HIV & AIDS, this pandemic is disproportionally impacting the poorest. That will become clear in time and there will be prophets who will deeply disrupt our privileges and entitlements. The only question is whether we will have ears to hear the Spirit that anoints them.

What I do know is that this prophetic practice is central to the Easter story. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday with a wondrous, packed, city celebration that is also an illusion that the Messiah would be violent, that the way of the world would be the way out of disparity. It ends with an execution and overwhelming despair.

“If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere” is the line from Seamus Heaney doing the rounds in Ireland at the moment as a motivation and inspiration. The suggestion is that the return to ‘normal’ life will be one big party. But Winter into Summer is not merely the linear progress of time with systemic fault lines left intact. It requires and demands death and rebirth. That dying includes the public acknowledgement of loss, of grief and of hope. Such public acknowledgement will come easier to some countries and communities than others.

So what must we do now? Well of course lament, take from the richness of the scriptures, from Psalms and prophecy that point us to the heart of God.

But also turn up, or at least honour those who are tasked with carrying the burden of turning up. Both of our pandemics are overwhelming. Simple acts of presence and patience can be the most profound, though now seriously limited. As we approach Easter I am struck by the women bringing spices to the tomb on the Sunday morning. Despair had not completely overwhelmed them and their tiny flicker of hope is expressed through the seemingly mundane work of physically caring for the corpse beyond the city walls. The stone is rolled away, not just to make room for Jesus’s exit (such an opening was not necessary) but to make room for the womens’ lowest of roles to be stunningly elevated, through an angelic encounter, to that of Apostles to the Apostles. Maybe the present crisis will lead us to a radical readjustment of what roles are valued in society, of where wealth is distributed and of how we care for those most vulnerable. We can only hope.

Richard Carson is ACET Ireland’s  CEO.

 

 

 UPDATE 3rd April – Holding multiple realities in tension every day.

Our work continues remotely with phone, text and Zoom (for team meetings) our main ways of communicating.

The mutuality of ‘Drinking from the Same Cup’ lies at the heart of our work but now we have to do it from a distance. It is a daily challenge as the physical connection we form with those we support at a kitchen table or a community café really matters. As individuals and families affected by HIV see increased anxiety and fear each day, our staff are there with reassuring words, practical supports and a listening ear.

We continue to keep faith communities including churches informed on both pandemics, including with the HSE resources. Again, information itself is only a fragment of our work and tells an incomplete story. It is the richness of faith, hope and love in action in that unites us.

ACET’s staff are defined as essential workers under the government’s latest guidelines so are allowed travel away from home. However we have been asked to keep any visits, even if delivering essential items, to an absolute minimum so as to follow the public health imperative of reducing the transmission of the virus. We will be using centralised resources, including our local authorities’ initiatives and HSE-funded partners, where we can.

Global inequality is at the heart of this pandemic. We are praying for our supported projects in Zimbabwe where the health infrastructure is completely unequipped for the impact of COVID-19.

Please stand with us at this difficult time for all. Thank you for all your support.

UPDATE 27th March – We are now responding to two pandemics

All our staff and volunteers continue to work remotely while staying in touch with one another via Zoom meetings. We are grateful for one another, our funders and your support.

Our care staff are in touch will all those we support, often in challenging circumstances where access to health services is reduced and mental health is poor. Their work phones are staying on at weekends in case of emergency.
We are keeping in touch with faith communities and other groups across the country to ensure that all are updated with accurate information on COVID-19. The great work of the HSE in developing translated resources is proving very useful.
For any queries on services, supports or information in your local community drop us an email at dublin@acet.ie
Finally, if you pray, please pray for our staff,  the frontline workers in the HSE  and all those involved in Public Health at this challenging time.

UPDATE 19th March

If you pray we would love you to join us as we seek wisdom and courage for the way forward.

Please pray for our care work, now based remotely. We support many individuals and families living with and affected by HIV. HIV treatment is excellent and can mean that there are no additional complications if a person has COVID-19. However respiratory and other underlying conditions are commonplace among those we support. This is linked to the structural inequalities and inequities in areas of wealth and health in our society. Join us in lamenting that our shared encounter with any pandemic will not mean a shared outcome. Pray for wisdom and courage for our staff and for peace in the midst of anxiety.

Pray for wisdom as, along with many other agencies, we assess what is ‘essential’ at this difficult time and focus on where need is greatest alongside colleagues in the HSE.

Please pray for our HIV Testing and Awareness work with migrant-origin churches and faith communities which currently includes assessing and distributing COVID-19 information for the HSE. Pray that those often marginalised because of language or circumstance would receive clear understanding on the way forward.

Please pray for our partner organisations across the country and all the health professionals we work alongside including our Chairman, Prof. Sam McConkey, who will be at the forefront of the response for a time to come. Pray for safety and strength.

Please pray for our fundraising and support to Zimbabwe, through the Matilda Project. While there are no recorded cases of COVID-19 in the country yet, please remember them at this time. The health service would profoundly struggle with even the smallest outbreak and a larger one would have a devastating impact. Pray for protection for all.


UPDATE 13th March An update on our work as all projects have moved to a remote model.

Thank you for your support as we serve at the intersection of two very different pandemics with similar challenges, fears and hopes.

Dear friends of ACET,

In this difficult time our work continues though we have now moved almost entirely to a remote model. 

Our care staff are continuing to support individuals and families across Dublin, though via phone and text. ACET operates a highly relational model of care which easily fits remote working. Interventions which take a longer period of time and involve significant listening skills and patience have been at the centre of our work for decades. Key issues such as health inclusion, safety, adherence to medication and emotional support are at the centre of our care plans. This includes all HSE advice on COVID-19.

Our HIV Testing Service is suspended for now though Luky and Richard are remotely available for awareness communications to faith communities and other groups, both on HIV and COVID-19. New HSE posters on the latter are available in multiple languages. 

We are in touch with partner organisations across the country and are thinking of health professionals such as our Chairman, Prof. Sam McConkey, who will be at the forefront of the response for a time to come.

Our fundraising and support to Zimbabwe, through the Matilda Project, continue. While there are no recorded cases of COVID-19 in the country yet, please remember them at this time. The health service would profoundly struggle with even the smallest outbreak and a larger one would have a generation-defining impact. 

We can be contacted at dublin@acet.ie and 01-8787700, though picking up of messages may be a bit more sporadic than usual.

ACET as an organisation holds closely its responsibility to ensure the stories of HIV, the AIDS pandemic and related public health issues are at the heart of our decisions both inward and outward facing.  We believe that applying the principle of precaution to how we conduct our daily work right now is an expression of solidarity with all people as our faith drives us to build a collective effort. As a community of communities, let’s all listen and learn from where we have been and ensure we will never make the same mistakes again.

Please take good care and thank you for your ongoing support,

Richard and all the team.

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