Bishop describes AIDS scourge

Published November 1, 2004

The scourge of HIV-AIDS remains in South Africa, with new infections emerging even among grandparents who are often not adequately protected when they care for children afflicted by the disease, according to Bishop Thabo Makgoba, the new bishop of the diocese of Grahamstown, who recently wrapped up a nine-day visit to Toronto.

“People are dying like flies, to put it crudely,” said Bishop Makgoba during a visit to Church of the Redeemer. He shared his experiences in ministry with Redeemer incumbent Rev. Andrew Asbil, Rev. Andrew Wesley, who runs an urban native ministry at the same church, and Rev. Gary van der Meer, incumbent at St. John’s church, West Toronto.

“Our ministry is to the dying,” Bishop Makgoba told the Canadians. “Priests are spending time at funerals, setting up home-based care for parishioners, spending time helping child-led families because parents have died.”

Grahamstown has set up programs to deal with the pandemic, among them, Anglicans Living with AIDS, where every parish hall has become a centre for counseling, testing and education.

In an interview, Bishop Makgoba said HIV-AIDS is prevalent in poverty-stricken areas where prostitution is high. But, he added, “new infections have also involved grannies,” who contract the disease from HIV-infected grandchildren. “They wash them and they have cuts in their hands from working in the farms,” he explained.

Bishop Makgoba, whose diocese has a companion relationship with the diocese of Toronto, cited poverty, unemployment and the “tyranny of distance” as major challenges affecting the ministry of his diocese. Grahamstown has only 23 stipendiary (salaried) and 77 non-stipendiary priests to handle 63 parishes and 200 congregations.

“If Toronto were to send a couple of volunteer clergy and laity in the diocese of Grahamstown, I would say ‘Alleluia!'” he said, adding that help is particularly needed in the area of HIV-AIDS ministry, stress management, and clergy training.

During his visit Bishop Makgoba was asked about whether his diocese needed money. “Money helps,” he said, “but what I’m looking for is long-lasting relationships as we pray through Christ.”

His diocese has its own gifts to offer, he said. “The way we’re handling the crisis of poverty is making us richer spiritually; we’re getting by with little and learning to say, ‘Thank you, Lord’… We can help in the area of racial conflict…in the area of reconciliation and healing and how to live with tensions while witnessing the presence of God.”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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