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After hitting rock-bottom, Rani has turned her life around and is now helping others by sharing her own experiences. She may be living with HIV, but she's living on her terms, and is loving life.
More about this health hero
Rani's is 32 years old and lives in Bandung, one of Indonesia's largest cities. She has fought addiction to heroin and been clean since 2004, but her drug habit has left her HIV positive. After hitting "rock bottom", Rani slowly started to put her life back together, entering Rumah Cemara rehab centre. "It was only there that I realised I could live my life normally," she says.
When Rani learned she had HIV, she "felt nothing". "I was given no information about HIV and I left the doctors thinking I was going to die in three months. There was no support, no information," she says. "I felt messed up. I faced both stigma and discrimination. People drifted away because they were afraid of me – that I would give them the virus."
Rani has fought and won her addiction to heroin and is now living with HIV. Through her own experiences, she has become a strong and knowledgeable advocate for injecting drug users and people, like her, living with HIV. "Providing information on HIV made a difference. I get more respect now," she says.
Working for Rumah Cemara, a linking organisation of the International HIV/Aids Alliance, as one of the few female managers in a male dominated culture, Rani admits that she sometimes finds it "a challenge" being a woman in a senior position. "Indonesia is a very male dominated culture so sometimes it's difficult," she says.
Rani plays a vital role in her community, through the work she does at the centre. "I coordinate the case managers who are working in the field and those in the hospitals, helping them to access antiretroviral treatment for clients. I schedule home visits and provide support and back up to the case managers," she explains. "Between them the case managers look after around 1300 individuals. There are many different groups for people living with HIV that we run and the demand is increasing."
What is it that drives Rani? "I enjoy helping people. When you're helping them and you actually succeed, the feeling is incredible. You can't compare it to other things. I still manage to visit my old clients," she says. "I never believed I could come to this point but I have. I'm living, I'm making a difference." And for Rani, this is the key. "Being an HIV health hero for me is about helping other human beings," she says.
Rani is philosophical about her past and has no regrets, because she is able to use her own experiences to help others. "By sharing my experience and journey, I am able to feel that I belong to something bigger in this universe. I don't regret my past life as my past experience can be used to help other people's lives," she says. "Experience brings hope, and hope brings belief in a better future. I really hope that my story and experience are able to bring hope to those who need it."
While Rani is committed to helping others, she knows that, first and foremost, she must take care of herself, and she is determined to live life on her own terms. "Being healthy is not only physical, but also emotional and spiritual," she says. "I know for sure that I will not be able to help others if I cannot help myself. I love my life as much as I love myself. I always try to be grateful for anything that I posses, experience, see, feel and hear."