Thai Prime Minister Offers ‘Novel’ Plan to Make Condoms from Rubber Surplus
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told a national seminar on AIDS yesterday that the government could solve two problems at once by buying surplus rubber from farmers at a subsidized price and using it to make free condoms to prevent AIDS, Reuters reports. "[I]n a rubber intervention scheme, instead of spending ($220 million) to buy rubber and sell it at a big loss, we should buy it up and make it into condoms and give them free, or sell them at a very low price," he suggested, adding that people would subsequently gain "easy access to condoms" to prevent HIV transmission (Reuters, 7/11). International rubber prices are currently at the lowest rate in 30 years. The condoms made from the surplus could be "distribute[d] to the general public and even export[ed] too," Thaksin said. Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan added that condoms made from the rubber surplus could be distributed to high schools across the country, as students are "increasingly vulnerable to the disease" (Noikorn, Associated Press, 7/11). But rubber traders told Reuters that the plan would "encounter difficulty" as the Thai government would only buy surplus rubber sheets and not the latex used in condoms. "They definitely cannot use rubber sheets to produce condoms. Rubber sheet is used only in tire manufacture," one trader explained. Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rubber, and at least 500 million condoms are used each year in the country. Approximately 29,000 new cases of AIDS occur in Thailand each year (Reuters, 7/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.