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Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 17:47 UK

Indian HIV parents kill children

Aids awareness poster in Indian-administered Kashmir
Experts say more needs to be done to promote Aids awareness

An Indian couple who were infected with the virus that can lead to Aids have committed suicide after killing their three children, police in Mumbai say.

Relatives say the couple had been depressed by news that their daughter also had the HIV virus.

Police say the parents hanged themselves after poisoning their children, aged between five and 10.

India has one of the largest numbers of HIV-positive people in the world and they suffer serious social stigma.

'Smothered'

Police say Babu Ishwar Thevar, 39, and his wife Amori, 33, killed themselves and their children on 5 August.

Babu Thevar's brother, Armugam, found the bodies when he went to the house late that night after work.

The couple had two sons - Venkatesan, 10, and Mani, eight - as well as a daughter, Mahalakshmi, who was five.

The girl survived being poisoned but police believe she was smothered by a pillow until she stopped breathing.

The officer who is investigating the case told the BBC the couple then hanged themselves from the ceiling by a nylon rope.

Mr Thevar told the police that his brother was worried about the infection and had become depressed after finding out that his daughter also had the infection.

The couple did not leave a suicide note.

Police say they probably ended their children's lives thinking medication could not prevent the virus from affecting their daughter.

Financial motives have been ruled out as Mr Thevar was doing well in his work as a Tamil film distributor.

'Lack of awareness'

The Tevars had not disclosed their medical status to their neighbours and relatives, and Mr Tevar's brother says he is the only one who knew about it.

Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is capital, is one six Indian states where the prevalence of HIV/Aids is "high", according to the country's National Aids Control Organisation.

Activists say that due to lack of awareness, the HIV virus is often passed on to children. Social stigma is a major reason cited for people not seeking medical treatment.

Campaigners say many HIV-related suicides could be prevented by providing counselling.

Even though the Indian government offers free tests and cheap drugs, the number of HIV-infected patients in the country remains one of the highest in the world.


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