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.
ACET Staff Team