Beating addiction in Indonesia: Rani’s story
“My life is much better today,”says Hout Sotha, a 27-year old transgender woman. “We have changed some bad attitudes and we always use condoms when we have sex. When we have medical problems we go directly to the health centre for services”.
This is a big change from before, when she felt stigmatised in society. “Most people in our community now do not discriminate against us. Now, I and my friend can go anywhere with full confidence” she says.
"It was only thanks to meeting people at Rumah Cemara and getting their support that I realised I could live my life normally."
Rani's mother, Elly Yuliana, has stood by her daughter throughout her turbulent journey. "Her addiction really progressed after her father passed away. They were very close. We are a warm, loving family. Our story is a powerful example that this can happen to anyone," says Elly.
When Rani tested HIV positive it was a terrible blow for Elly. "I felt like the sky was about to fall in. I asked myself, how could this be happening? I'm involved in a family support group, mostly it’s parents who are affected by HIV. We spend a lot of time discussing things about the future; how the illness is progressing, that someone has passed away and we all worry about our children."
Life without drugs
A lack of information on HIV was a real problem for Rani in the early days. "I did feel people were judging me and I faced both stigma and discrimination. People asked me if they could share a bathroom, plates, toothbrushes, they drifted away because they were afraid of me, that I would give them the virus. Providing information on HIV made a difference and things are very different now. I get more respect."
In 2003 Rani volunteered to go to rehab. She was tired and wanted to stop using heroin. "I hit rock bottom. There was nowhere else to go. Using drugs was no longer fun anymore. I was using because if I didn't it was painful. I slowly started to put my life back together really when I entered the Rumah Cemara rehab centre.”
"It was only thanks to meeting people at Rumah Cemara and getting their support that I realised I could live my life normally. The people at Rumah Cemara showed me that it's possible to live without using drugs,” she says.
“People had talked to me regularly about my addiction, encouraging me to give up drugs. The difference this time was the people at Rumah Cemara were people who had been in the same situation as me and they had done it. When you're using it seems impossible to come off drugs so seeing people who had done it gave me the belief that I too could do it."
A positive future
For Rani every day it is a conscious decision to fight her addiction. "I do worry that I am never going to be cured from my addiction and that I could relapse, that's my biggest worry. When I see other people get sick I also worry about my illness in the future."
Through her experiences Rani has become a knowledgeable, strong advocate of working with injecting drug users and with people living with HIV. "We need a comprehensive and integrated support package for harm reduction, HIV prevention information and access to support for recovery. But what happens is very different. People can't afford to go to rehab because it's very expensive and the rehab centre can't be run without money. So there needs to be a much greater range of support in place than there currently is. Rumah Cemara is trying to meet that need. I hope that by telling my story I can make a difference. I'm living. I'm making a difference. I never believed I could come to this point but I have. Rumah Cemara provides a safe environment for people to make changes in their lives," says Rani.