Stigma Drives HIV-Positive Couple in India to Drink Poison

After being forced from their home, a husband and wife take drastic measures to stop the anti-HIV bullying.

BY Nicholas Cimarusti

November 04 2013 9:08 PM ET

An HIV-positive couple in India consumed pesticide on October 24, a day after his parents kicked them out of their village to prevent the spread of the virus. Asit Nath, 38, died the same day while his 35-year-old wife, Kakali Nath, died two days later, according to the Indo Asian News Service.

The couple, who were from a northeastern village in India, near Agartala, the capital of the Indian state of Tripura, were both diagnosed HIV-positive in 2010 when Kakali was pregnant. Doctors advised her to abort the pregnancy and upon returning to their village, the abuse from relatives and other villagers began. After suffering from years of social ostracization by family and their community, The Times of India reports that the final straw was October 23 when Asit's parents forced them from the village to prevent the spread of infection.

According to The Times, Kakali Nath left behind a statement to the media that read, "We decided to take the extreme step and die together to save ourselves from further social and family isolation. Ever since the diagnosis, there have been a lot of medical complications, but our mental agony was far worse. Instead of any moral support, our families rejected us. It was very difficult for us to carry on."

According to the Tripura State AIDS Control Society, there are 1,091 people with HIV in the state of Tripura, and 405 confirmed cases of AIDS.

Abhijit Saptarshi, a local police chief, told Indo Asian News Service, that the case is registered as an "unnatural death" and that there was no criminal complaint filed by anyone surrounding the couple's deaths. "If any criminal complaint is registered with us," he told reporters, "we would act accordingly."

Local activists say that it's clear that social ridicule led to the couple's suicide, with the AIDS Society's project director Tapan Kumar telling Indo Asian News Service, "We have asked our north Tripura District AIDS Prevention and Control Center officials to study the case and reasons behind the suicide."

Tags: Stigma, HIV, India, suicide

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