Thursday, August 14, 2014

Buyé HIV/AIDS Centre

John Gee, a member of the Diocese of Edmonton, is currently in Burundi, working in the Diocese of Buye for a three-month stint. We welcome this guest post to the blog.

The Integrated HIV/AIDS Centre was opened at Buyé Hospital in 2012. The hospital, near All Saints' Cathedral, was originally built by the Anglican Church but is now operated by the Burundian government. The Diocese of Buyé still has an interest in the hospital and sponsored the construction and equipping of the HIV/AIDS Centre, partly with grants from the Canadian Primate's World Relief and Development Fund and the Diocese of Edmonton.

The centre is spacious, immaculate, and well-equipped, in contrast to the rest of the hospital which largely dates from the 1930s and is in urgent need of renovation. Several hundred people come every month for voluntary HIV testing. The rate of positive tests is low and getting lower, suggesting that prevention efforts are having an impact. There are also about 150 people with HIV attending the centre every day to receive their medication. During their visit they also receive other health services as well as spiritual counselling from the Rev. Deo Nkunzimana, HIV/AIDS coordinator for the diocese. Most people in Burundi are Christian so this combination of services does not present the difficulties that it would in Canada. Deo uses the information gained from patients to focus his efforts in HIV education.

I have worked in the HIV/AIDS sector in Canada, and I am profoundly impressed with the efforts in this area in Burundi. People here face great barriers, particularly with respect to nutrition, but the effects of the prevention and treatment work have been overwhelmingly successful. Deaths from AIDS, once a daily occurrence, have practically stopped. The Anglican church has shown tremendous leadership in battling the stigma associated with HIV and helping those infected towards health and self-acceptance.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Worship in Burundi

John Gee, a member of the Diocese of Edmonton, is currently in Burundi, working in the Diocese of Buye for a three-month stint. We welcome this guest post to the blog.

Anglican services in Burundi tend to have a strong Evangelical flavour. Sunday morning at St. John’s, Ngozi the service was Morning Prayer – the first time I have experienced that on a Sunday morning in years. 

Services last for at least two hours and no one complains. Every church has 4 or 5 choirs (children, youth, young adults, women, mixed) and each of them has to make a contribution. St. John’s has a particularly good music director who accompanies on both electronic instruments and traditional drums. Perhaps the most enjoyable for me is the unaccompanied singing - everyone here seems to have an enviable sense of rhythm and pitch. 

In Tanzania I found I could sing along phonetically in Swahili fairly easily, but Kirundi is more challenging! Nevertheless I enjoy following the printed words and noticing familiar patterns in prayer, hymns, and scripture. Usually I am sitting next to someone who can interpret so that I get the gist of what is happening. I am always welcomed during the announcements; I find the attention a little overwhelming, but the hospitality is unmistakably genuine.