Taking what he learned while acquiring a master's degree in religion at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, accountant Paul Chimhungwe is looking forward to returning to his native Zimbabwe. Chimhungwe plans to fulfill his calling to minister to the overwhelming number of AIDS patients in his home country. "That's a neglected part of our society," said Chimhungwe of those lying in hospital beds facing their last days.
When he finishes his degree in August, Chimhungwe will travel with his family to his home in Mutare, a city of 300,000 in Zimbabwe. Upon arrival, he plans to join two friends in their AIDS ministry. This will be a dramatic change for Chimhungwe, who previously worked as an accountant in Mutare. But, before taking the accountant's job, he had worked for a Christian-based AIDS center in Mutare. The ministry kept beckoning, however, and Chimhungwe knew his place was with AIDS patients.
According to Chimhungwe, a number of factors contribute to the African AIDS epidemic. Noting that primarily heterosexuals contract the disease, he acknowledged that prostitution is rampant. Another reason is that African men are expected to have a number of girlfriends in addition to a wife.
Rather than preaching against behavior, Chimhungwe believes his calling is consoling the dying. His ministry will practice hands-on compassion. People dying of AIDS are so starved for a human touch, Chimhungwe said, that they bond with anyone who extends a hand. He and his friends hope to illustrate that they are not at the hospitals to preach, but to show compassion. "Instead of simply condemning people, we want to live with them and help them die peacefully," he said.
Back to other CDC news for March 26, 2003