A 39-YEAR-OLD HIV/Aids patient hanged herself at the Cradock Hospital yesterday because she was unable to live with her status, according to her family.
The woman, whose admission to hospital was related to HIV/Aids, committed suicide at the government hospital just after midnight on Tuesday during a power failure.
Her aunt, who did not want to be named and asked that her niece not be identified, said yesterday: "She was a lovely person but could not face the future.
"She was miserable ... and killed herself because of her status.”
The woman hanged herself with the curtain from the railing around her bed.
Her body was found by a nurse yesterday morning.
Experts said the death was the tip of the iceberg, with suicide among people with HIV/Aids spiralling out of control.
Provincial health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said this was the first suicide of its kind at a government hospital this year.
However, the figure is believed to be much higher as a direct link between the disease and suicide is never actually recorded in the Eastern Cape.
One expert said yesterday the number in the province could be as high as 83 suicides a month.
Experts blame the increasing trend of suicide among HIV/Aids patients on the disease’s stigma as families often reject them.
Kupelo said the provincial authority did not record the data of HIV/Aids patients who committed suicide.
Professor Banwari Meel from the Walter Sisulu University said the impact of HIV/Aids as a cause of suicide was clearly getting out of control.
Meel, who has published a book and numerous articles on suicide and HIV/Aids in the province, said urgent attention was needed.
"The suicide and HIV/Aids figure gets higher every day.
"It is difficult to put a number on it, but I can safely say more than 1000 people commit suicide every year in the province because of their status,” he said.
The overall suicide rate in the province a year was more than 42000.
According to the World Health Organisation, suicide rates in South Africa are higher than the global average in males but lower in females.
South Africa’s suicide rate is 23.3 suicides per 100000 in males and 6.1 in females.
Meel urged the health department to do more research to establish the exact extent of the crisis.
He said postmortem reports of suicide victims needed to state if they had HIV/Aids.
"A verbal discussion should take place with the department regarding all suicides to establish a link,” he said.
Meel said people turned to suicide because they had no family support.
"There is no counselling either and a majority are isolated and even attacked by family members because of their status.”
A recent human rights study showed that an alarming number of women and children living with HIV/Aids were raped and abused by family members.
In 57% of the cases, family members were the main culprits.
Beatings, stabbings and even murder were also reported in the study conducted in the OR Tambo district earlier this year.
According to the Medical Research Council, suicide is ranked 19th on a list of the top 20 causes of death in the Eastern Cape.
Eastern Cape Aids Council chief executive Lulama Ntshingwa said the increase in HIV/Aids-related suicides was because people could not accept the condition.
"They see it as a death sentence ... The suicide rate among patients is climbing,” he said, adding that stigma was also a problem.
"I want people to know that they can now live long, healthy lives. There is treatment available,” he said.
Kupelo said people needed to accept the HIV/Aids status of family members.
"There is no reason for people to commit suicide ... People can live for many years with the current treatment available.”
Kupelo said the department needed to urgently look into the suicide rate among HIV/Aids patients.