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New ACET Ireland Webpage

Hello Drinking from the Same Cup followers.

We are delighted to announce that the new ACET Ireland website has been launched. Here you will find all our latest news on how we are improving the lives of those living with and affected by HIV and playing our part in reducing the number of new HIV infections.

We will keep this website open but, for now, our attention will be on the new website. See you over there.

http://www.acet.ie

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Drinking from the Same Suspended Coffee Cup – ACET partners with Third Space

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We are delighted to announce that the wonderful Smithfield café, Third Space, are partnering with us by offering suspended coffee.

You purchase two coffees, one for yourself and one to be held as a suspended coffee. These coffees are then passed onto ACET to enable us to meet with our clients and share the space that Drinking from the Same Cup is all about. So head down to Smithfield Square in Dublin and you can help us make a difference in the lives of those we work with.
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5 Reasons to go to ♫4HIV


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1) Philip McKinley

Our Family Support worker is a incredible performer, musician and an all round great guy. You will have a fantastic time with this founding member of Discovery Gospel Choir as he shares some incredible songs.977683_10151720655813933_2015677669_o

 

 

 

 

 

2) Third Space

This really is a special place. Yes the food is great and the staff are wonderful but there is something special happening here as a new sort of community space is opened up. Smithfield Square on a summer’s evening will be spectacular.

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3) Ridiculously good raffle prizes.

It’s easy to name drop the Savoy, Cineworld, Talbot101, LoveIreland, Eason’s and Claddagh Records but our favourite is local designer Jennifer Slattery. Yes some of her amazing work is up for grabs.

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4) Drinking from the Same Cup

Free copies of the book will be there to take away but the highlight will actually be some new creative expressions of our story performed on stage and making an impact around the world in ways that have even surprised the ACET Staff.

5) ACET

Yes all funds go to our fantastic work around the city. In addition Third Space are launching an exciting new venture in partnership with ACET but you will have to head down to Smithfiled to hear more about it.

So see you all on Saturday 8th June at 7:30pm in Smithfield Square, Dublin.

 

Drinking from the Same Cup – Story #20 – Our Story

In 1992, on a budget of IR£378 and with an answering machine in a back bedroom, ACET Ireland was founded. In the past twenty years hundreds of people affected by HIV have received practical and emotional support and tens of thousands have been educated on HIV-related issues or trained to be better professionals in their response to the virus.
Today, both the care and education work continue. In education we have moved from working in a broad range of settings to offering highly specialised training on the interactions of faith and HIV. Some of the most influential people in the lives of those living with HIV including health professionals and church leaders are now better equipped to engage in a holistic, caring and effective way. We are also educating and empowering at some of the margins of Irish society by partnering with chaplaincy structures in accommodation centres for asylum seekers.

In care, we are still privileged to support and love some of our very first families and individuals. In some instances, we are now working with the 3rd or 4th generation of a family who continue to be impacted by HIV or the legacy of some of those lost over the years. Alongside this, we are both excited and challenged by new referrals and subsequent relationships being formed which cause us to continue evaluating our role in caring for and educating those affected by HIV. Further, we recognise the continued need for ACET’s care work in response to the changing face of HIV in Ireland and are working hard to create partnerships where expertise and experience can be shared amongst different groups relating to people from varying socio-economic backgrounds and circumstances in life.

We want to celebrate these extraordinary achievements, remember the sad and happy
times and look forward to a hope-filled future. The centrepiece of our 20th Anniversary celebrations, therefore, was the production of this book. It contains 20 stories of clients, volunteers, staff and supporters who have impacted and have been impacted by the ACET adventure. In drawing together this collection of stories, we were struck by the continuous themes of friendship, family and faith that arose as individuals reflected on their journey with ACET.

We have been touched by the recognition that we have simply shared in life along the years and feel honoured that others have experienced what we ourselves have known to be the true beauty in our work. However, to accurately sum up the highs and lows of this journey, and try to explain in simple terms what exactly it has looked like, we turned to one phrase from one particular story – “Drinking from the Same Cup.” Though used originally in one individual’s story to convey the burden of fear, stigma and discrimination around sharing or using the same cup as someone living with HIV, the phrase also wonderfully sums up ACET’s journeying in life with those affected by HIV and those we want to educate about HIV-related issues. As an organisation we were established as a response to a barrier of fear that we wanted to break down – to go where others wouldn’t, to talk about what others shied away from. Today, we continue to put this at the heart of what we do, seeking to respond to challenging issues by sharing in them alongside others.

“Drinking from the Same Cup,” speaks about not only the sharing in one another’s challenges but also to the reality that we all have much to learn from each other. More so, it speaks of a simple action that can be taken which overcomes fears and presumptions and says in essence, “we are the same.”

Thank you to all who have taught and continue to teach us this valuable lesson. To those who have laughed and cried with us, challenged, rebuked, encouraged, prayed, and simply listened to our story. We hope you continue to do so as we journey on.

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Drinking from the Same Cup – Story #19 – Richard

Richard Carson first became an ACET care volunteer in 1998. He went onto join the staff team and led the Education & Training Service for many years. He is the current CEO.

My journey with ACET begins on one of those cold Irish Spring evenings. A passing college friend mentioned to me that a local charity was holding a training event for new volunteers and I really should come along. 14 years, hundreds of care clients and tens of thousands of educatees later and I am still here.

My first client visit to someone living with HIV is still ingrained in my brain as something of a monumental moment (you never forget your first time!). The inner-city flats changed from being buildings to commute past on the way to somewhere else to becoming part of my own story. Over the years I have come to realise that the Rubicon to be crossed that day was actually not so much that of class or socio-economic advantage or even health but was of unearthing my own prejudices which needed to be processed and sanctified, a journey which continues to this day. ACET has always embodied what it means to be person-centred. This means that if we are to be effective then we have as much work to do on ourselves as we do with our clients.

There are so many ways that I could describe my journey with ACET but two tensions, within which ACET seeks to comfortably operate, continually get my attention.
The first of these tensions centres on the meeting of truth and mercy. When people hear that I work for a Christian response to HIV, particularly in the area of education and prevention, a whole range of questions flash through their minds. Sometimes they are even verbalised. “How does that work?” “What about abstinence, condoms, needle exchanges and homosexuality?” “What about sin, salvation, morality and love?” Obtaining the answers is not simple and even a Master’s dissertation in Trinity College has only achieved this in part. The psalmist, though, understood that at the centre of faith is a reconciliation of these two realities: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10). Or as Bono (less eloquently) put it: “it’s annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren’t they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality and equality is a real pain in the arse.”
This tension of ruthlessly clinging to both equality and justice is something I have spent almost a decade and a half wrestling with. It has brought me to inner city schools in Dublin, homeless hostels in Belfast, hotels in Uganda, churches in Eastern Europe, youth conferences in Germany, global church gatherings in South Africa, medical conferences in Austria, accommodation centres for asylum seekers around Ireland and hundreds of places in between. I have attempted to articulate this tension across the Irish airwaves, in print media, on the BBC and in Skype calls from my living room in Crumlin to Universities in India. It has been thrilling, frustrating, fascinating and enriching. Looking back I wouldn’t want to have done anything else. So what’s the answer? Well, of course, I still haven’t fully figured that out but I know that at the end of the day “mercy triumphs over judgement.” (James 2:13)

This second tension is rooted in the year I spent immediately after finishing college. I was dividing my time between working with client families of ACET and working in a fee-paying school supporting various extra-curricular activities. The two worlds were one short Dublin Bus journey apart and suffice to say that the year broke me. How could I hold my identity of having grown up in relative prosperity while engaging with those who seemingly had so little? Was the answer to get as much
resources from those who have to those who have not, the model we have come to know as charity?
What ACET has taught me so well is that the best way to engage with this tension is to realise that true blessing can only come when we seek mutuality in friendship with those we work with; when we come to care for others believing that they can bless us as much as we can bless them. To practice this well is incredibly difficult as it involves a counter-intuitive giving up of power and of self. The temptation is strong to centre our work on our career, a cause or a particular community rather than on the possibilities that exist within a friendship. However when caring for those at the margins of society, ACET has shown me that it is the only thing that works.

My journey into these two tensions with ACET has not been made alone. I have been accompanied by extraordinarily gifted colleagues, clients and friends who have demonstrated what it means to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. In addition they have shown me that at the heart of these tensions lies the Christian story itself, manifest in an expression of love and an exhibition of the scandal of grace: that mercy and truth have met, righteousness and peace have kissed.

Drinking from the Same Cup – Story #18 – Juliet

Juliet Amamure is the National Co-ordinator and a founding member of Diaspora Women’s Initiative, an organisation that exists to empower migrant women to tackle health and welfare issues in Ireland such as HIV, mental health and self-sustenance.

I am indeed thrilled to be sharing with you the strength and value ACET gave Diaspora Women’s Initiative (DWI) since its inception nearly five years ago. It is a great privilege, as often we tend to plan what is to be done next without reflecting on the small but humble beginnings we have achieved along the road. DWI has had the opportunity to reach out and build networks with religious organisations, statutory bodies and many private and voluntary organisations around Ireland as a result of working in partnership with ACET.
I first met Richard Carson of ACET during an evening event organised by Tearfund at St Mark’s Church on Pearse Street. This gave birth to a partnership between DWI and ACET. ACET has and continues to accompany DWI in her effort to reach out to women in immigrant communities, particularly within churches. One of the highlights of this partnership was my first encounter with migrant church leaders at a focus day hosted by ACET at the Redeemed Christian Church of God’s Jesus Centre parish in Bluebell.
I recall the then CEO of ACET, Richard Phillips, talked about a “Story of Hope” saying the church has an answer to HIV. This was preceded by Pastor Tunde Adebayo-Oke of the Redeemed Christian Church of God who referred to HIV as being like a modern day leprosy which is fuelled by ignorance on how HIV is transmitted leading to stigma and discrimination. I heard Richard Carson (then the Education Director for ACET) demonstrate a fascinating five-dimensional graph showing the trends in HIV over the years. Before open discussions I was then called to give my presentation.

I did not know what to expect when ACET requested me to talk on behalf of DWI to a gathering of faith-based leaders. I thought it was an opportunity to dispel myths surrounding HIV. Initially I was filled with fear to speak as though I had never spoken before. Previously I had had the opportunity to talk at the National Youth Council of Ireland, the School of Nursing in Trinity College, to Concern and Trocaire staff and at Dublin City Council events. But on this particular occasion I somehow felt terrified. I was terrified because it was the first time for me to talk about HIV to religious leaders and particularly to those from an African origin. The fear that was building up inside me was due to reports I had gathered from women living with and affected with HIV in Ireland who have experienced enormous challenges.

I have found that the experiences lived by these women in Ireland show that it was and still is socially unacceptable to get pregnant before marriage in Africa. Extreme but common expressions of gender inequality pertinent among DWI membership were forced early marriages, dropping out of school due to unplanned pregnancies, and lack of support from immediate family. The women became a source of cheap domestic labour. They also became victims of sexual exploitation commonly known as prostitution as this was the only option they were left with in order to raise money to travel overseas. Some of them were exploited into trafficking drugs to different parts of the world and to do this they had to abuse alcohol in order to be able to cope. Also, while medication is available in Ireland, there remain enormous challenges for these women to adhere, whether it is due to side effects or other social factors.

But back to that day in Jesus Centre, and my nervousness at addressing my audience. I had first responded to my fears by consulting two of my advisers and mentors from New Communities partnership and Open Heart House; I also gathered information on HIV in Ireland, UK and America. Finally, I reflected on the HIV issues and characteristics of a woman living with and affected with HIV in Ireland. This formed the basis for my talk.
As I walked up to the podium my inner voice told me to speak slowly, clearly and keep it short. I assured myself that keeping it short was the approach to take since my fellow speakers had said most of the major issues that I had planned to say. I quickly perused my speech and picked out what was not said.
First I said that HIV is real; HIV is in Ireland; HIV is in the church and HIV is here.

I am not a preacher and neither is DWI a support service based on religion, but I recall quoting John 9: 2-3, in which the disciples asked Jesus, “Whose sin caused the man to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents?” Likewise, people living with HIV in Ireland are still being defined by HIV. I found out that the women feared telling their pastors about their HIV status. According to the women, they believed that some preachers often associated sickness, and particularly HIV, to a curse.
I also affirmed to the participants that research in the UK, USA and Ireland shows that HIV-affected immigrants living with HIV are disproportionately affected compared with indigenous populations of the respective host countries.
In saying all this, it is not all bad news. During the time that DWI members have lived in Ireland they have undergone transformation programmes with a variety of organisations such as AkiDwA, An Cosán, Cairdre, SPIRASI, One Family and Ozanam House. These programmes entailed acquiring personal development, leadership and entrepreneurial skills. They have attained third-level education in recognised universities and are now employed in reputable organisations. It is also nice to mention that women on long-term medical care have moved on with their lives despite medical side effects and that some of them have dreams of going back to Africa for development work.

Drinking from the Same Cup – Story #17 – Edwina

Edwina Dewart is the manager of the Dublin City South Volunteer Centre and has volunteered with ACET since 2009.

The first time I heard of ACET was about 10 years ago when I was doing an MA in Globalisation. I was particularly interested in development issues and was researching charities that might have some suitable volunteer openings. For some reason I could never remember what the “C” stood for when I asked anyone if they had heard of ACET. When asked I would reply, “I think it’s AIDS Counselling Education & Training or AIDS Christian or Care or something like that.” Of course it’s AIDS Care Education & Training, but to me it encompasses the other ‘C’s’ as well.

I ended up volunteering somewhere else and the following year went to Ethiopia to serve alongside different types of development programmes. After a number of months, I started working with a couple of refugee camps and heard about someone who taught HIV care and prevention using an ACET International curriculum. I had hoped to work alongside this team and learn the curriculum so as to use it in the camps but unfortunately it never worked out.
Fast forward a few years and I’m back living and working in Dublin in a volunteer centre. One of the great advantages of such a job is that you get to see all the new volunteer roles that come in and get a chance to meet the people in the organisations who make it happen! I was also looking for new ways in which I could donate my time to something I believed in. After noticing a volunteer role on our database for an Adult Care Worker with ACET I decided to find out more.
I completed the application process and went to one of the volunteer trainings. At the training a number of things struck me about the staff and work of ACET and if I had to summarise it in three words it would be: passion, commitment and knowledge. As staff informed us about the type of work they do and the clients they’ve worked with over 20 years, it was hard to think of many other organisations that have walked so long with the clients they serve. Programmes are often defined by one, three or five year funding cycles, but here you observe journeys spanning different generations.

The topics of HIV, drugs and sexual health are generally not dinner-party conversation, let alone in polite conversation in the church. Yet listening to the staff from ACET and recognising their knowledge, you observe how they break these taboos and present a credible third alternative that transcends the extremes.
About six months or so after the volunteer training I got a call to say that there might be a suitable match with a client and was I available to meet her the next day. I think it is useful to know if you are considering volunteering with ACET that it may take a while to be matched with someone and to think about whether you can wait that long.

When I walked up the steps of the flat complex to meet with the woman with whom I had been matched for the first time I think it is fair to say I felt nervous. After we met I think it would also be fair to say I felt out of my depth! I had seen many HIV programmes in Ethiopia and supported a couple of people with HIV, but this was a totally different experience.
Many times I felt I had nothing to offer – I didn’t even know what the various clinics we attended even did and had no medical knowledge of treatments for HIV and its secondary diseases. I also knew nothing about
drugs or drug addiction and didn’t even understand half of the slang terms that came up in conversation! Working in the community sector I felt I knew Dublin pretty well, but this was a different Dublin to what I had known. Initially as I sat and listened I felt there is nothing I can offer as she probably has more life experience in her little finger than I will ever know.

Yet as time goes on you get to know someone better and they you. There is continued chaos and drama but also humour, resilience and flashes of grace. You can also read and educate yourself more about drugs or HIV.
Overall, when I think of ACET I sometimes wonder why more people haven’t heard of them particularly in the church. Perhaps it is because they don’t promote themselves like other organisations or because the work they do is messy and on the fringes of society. Yet when I reflect on being a volunteer with ACET and what we actually do, I think it is about giving people the room to tell their stories as it happens and walking with them in their particular circumstances as life enfolds. However, it is not just about passively listening but also pausing for clarification, gently challenging and encouraging – just being a friend really.