September 5 , 2001 ( ENS ) Ted Karpf
is a man with a mission- - to mobilize the church in the battle against the AIDS pandemic.After years on the frontlines of the struggle in the United States , his
mission has now taken him to South Africa , where he
has put together the first AIDS conference for Anglican churches south of the Sahara.In the short time he
has been in South Africa , he
has been deeply shaken by the dimensions of the issue and the high human costs.
A few days before the conference , Karpf
described a visit to an old African priest who had just completed his
500th funeral , how he
had been to a so-called hospital where he
had been ushered into a room for women with AIDS designed to care for 20 patients , but now treating 70 or 80 , most of them succumbing to tuberculosis brought on by the fetid conditions.The women , many of them with children in their arms , stared back at him.
This same hospital had hearses , he
told me , that were actually pick-up trucks lined up like so many limousines on Oscar night.They were waiting for the AIDS victims inside , many cut from their families and communities and now stigmatized by everyone , utterly alone and left to die.
spoke in a quiet cadence , his
voice cracked and a tear appeared on his
described a four-year-old orphan who was struggling for life and an old man of 80 who hungered for a scrap of dignity.In short , he
told me about Africa and AIDS , and in those few minutes I understood that this conference was no mere gathering of the great and the good to talk , but a sort of war council that hoped to outline a strategy to deal with issues of life or death.However late the church's response to the crisis , that response had to be powerful and decisive.But most of all , in that moment , I saw a man who had been touched and moved and changed by a disease that is either dismissed as belonging to that group over there or , in the case of Africa , hardly discussed at all.
An unlikely journey
Ted Karpf's journey to this moment has been unlikely.
...From there , Karpf served as head of the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition , promoting the slogan that The Episcopal Church has AIDS.
has concluded that the Anglican churches in Africa are facing a monumental task in addressing the issue in the face of the most chilling statistics on earth- - 36 million with HIV/AIDS ; 27 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa alone.Karpf
approached Archbishop Njongokulu Ndungane , primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa
, to offer his
help.Like many of his
colleagues , the archbishop had been distracted from dealing with the AIDS issue because of apartheid and then with the issue of debt in the Two-Thirds World.But finally he was ready , and called Karpf , who was serving on the diocesan staff in Washington , to meet him in New York to work out what could be done
.I have a relative's funeral tonight , Karpf
told him.That's fine , said Ndungane , a man not used to being refused.Just be in New York by eight tomorrow.Goodbye..
So at the Episcopal Church Center
early the next morning , Karpf
and the archbishop began their negotiations and planning.By 5 o'clock that night , Karpf
was appointed Provincial Canon Missioner for HIV/AIDS.Episcopal Relief and Development pledged $50 , 000 towards a strategic planning process for tackling the HIV/AIDS problem , an amount eventually supplemented by a grant from Agency for International Development
.A few weeks later , Karpf
was in Africa.
'A huge opportunity'
Ndungane wanted a conference in August.It was now June.But remarkably and without much hesitation , every province of Africa agreed to send a representative to conference , the first such coming together of the Anglican church
in Africa about any subject , ever.And it worked out a deep commitment of the churches , endorsed by every primate in Africa , bolstered by the decision to establish a staff position to coordinate the response.