Police attribute their deaths to the social stigma attached with the disease
Three young girls — all sisters and believed to be infected with HIV — committed suicide by consuming poison in Vartej village in Bhavnagar district of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat.
The police said while two of the sisters died on the spot on Friday night, the eldest died in a hospital on Saturday. The police believed that the cause for their committing suicide was the social stigma attached with the disease and the discrimination they allegedly faced from the people in the village.
The girls were reported to have contracted the disease from their parents and their father, who was still ailing, was said to be almost bed-ridden while their mother and a younger brother died of AIDS a couple of years ago.
It was not the first time that the patients with HIV positive had to face social discrimination. A 40-year-old HIV patient in a government hospital in Jamnagar was “paraded” through the hospital corridors last year with a sticker on her forehead proclaiming her as an HIV patient.
State Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas regretted the suicides but said the government was making all efforts to create awareness among the people on the disease and to remove the social stigma attached with it. He disagreed with the view that the people of the Saurashtra region were not properly exposed to the social awareness programme. “When the Red Ribbon Express came to Gujarat, the maximum visitors it attracted were from Saurashtra,” Mr. Vyas said. In this case particularly, he claimed, the voluntary organisations engaged in the task had approached the father for necessary treatment but the father was not cooperating, he claimed.