Fellow Since 2000
This profile was prepared when Suzana Murni was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
Suzana is the first person in Indonesia to systematically provide support and information to those living with HIV. While there are organizations that focus on preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS, Suzana works with people who are infected, though not yet sick, and who are struggling to maintain their physical health and social well-being. Suzana helps people with the virus to survive without expensive drugs by teaching them how to strengthen their immune system and prevent common illnesses, such as diarrhea. Because HIV-positive persons face overwhelming discrimination, she improves their psychological well-being and emotional strength through support groups, information, and self-esteem building workshops. Many HIV-positive persons lose their jobs because of misinformation about how HIV is contracted. Furthermore, many who are HIV-positive quit their jobs in despair, thinking they will soon die. Suzana rebuilds self-confidence and promotes independence by providing grants to start small businesses. Moreover, Suzana is changing attitudes about HIV-infected people. Combating stereotypes with facts, she provides information to those who have contracted the disease, their partners and families, medical professionals, citizen organizations, government officials, the media, and the general public. As part of this effort, she has successfully encouraged those who are HIV-positive to speak out in order to give the disease a human face.