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Hurley and HIV/AIDS

As early as 1987, Archbishop Hurley established an AIDS Committee for the Archdiocese of Durban - one of the first South African church leaders to take the issue seriously. He had been influenced by a talk he heard given by Father Ted Rogers to a plenary session of the SACBC, a Jesuit from Zimbabwe. Hurley's pioneering work on HIV/AIDS was done with much assistance from Liz Towell, who gave up her job with the Department of Health to head AIDS work in the Archdiocese.

In an interview she described what impressed her about Hurley's approach: he urged Towell and her team of volunteers to emphasise love and care for people dying of the disease rather than any form of judgment; he emphasised the importance of conscience in decisions relating to the disease and preventing its spread; how rapidly he was able to establish a dynamic programme for the whole diocese; how he kept himself up-to-date by reading whatever research reports he could find; and how much sympathy and understanding he had about the plight of African women in relation to the disease.

After he had retired as archbishop and was working at Emmanuel Cathedral he invited Towell to speak on AIDS at all Masses and to be "100% forthright and accurate." Above all she was impressed by his humility: "he doesn't need to impress anyone".