Thailand to Launch Revitalized HIV/AIDS Awareness Campaign Aimed at Nation’s Youth
Thailand at the close of the XV International AIDS Conference next week will launch a revitalized HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to promote condom use among the nation's youth, Thai Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said Tuesday, the Bangkok Post reports. The campaign will target young people between the ages of 14 and 25, an age group whose "ignorance" about condom use has become a "prime concern" for Thai health officials, Sudarat said, according to the Bangkok Post. Approximately one-third of sexually active young people are not using condoms, primarily because of confidence in their partners, according to Health Ministry surveys. Health officials fear that such high-risk behavior could make young people increasingly at risk for HIV. "They worry about getting pregnant more than AIDS," Sudarat said (Bangkok Post, 7/7). Teenagers and young adults worldwide are at the greatest risk of HIV infection, especially female teenagers, according to a UNAIDS report released Tuesday, Xinhua News Agency reports (Xinhua News Agency, 7/7). As part of the new campaign, the government will install more condom vending machines throughout the country, especially near secondary schools, Charal Trinvuthipong, director general of the Disease Control Department, said. Seven thousand machines already have been installed nationwide, including 5,000 in Bangkok, which offer condoms for about 12 cents each -- one-tenth the price of condoms sold at drug and convenience stores. Local singers also will be asked to take part in the campaign to promote condom use and inform teenagers about the risks of HIV/AIDS (Bangkok Post, 7/7).
Teenagers are increasingly at risk because they are too young to have learned from the public education campaigns the government launched a decade ago, Hakan Bjorkman, U.N. deputy resident for HIV/AIDS programs in Thailand, said (VOA News, 7/6). Thailand was one of the first "hard hit" countries to recognize and address HIV/AIDS in the early 1990s. The country initiated programs to encourage condom use, especially among commercial sex workers, and implemented antiretroviral drug programs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/6). HIV/AIDS cases in the country decreased from 140,000 in 1991 to 21,000 in 2003, according to UNAIDS (Bangkok Post, 7/7). "Young people, the really young people, they come on the scene, so to speak, become sexually active -- they weren't around in the early '90s when this big campaign was going on," Bjorkman said, adding, "So they come out, they don't use condoms, they experiment with drugs ... they're very vulnerable" (VOA News, 7/6). Thai Sen. Mechai Viravaidya, who is known as the "condom king" for spearheading the national condom promotion initiative 10 years ago, said that Thailand has become complacent about HIV education in recent years, Reuters reports. "In the last two or three years, we have fallen into a state of hibernation in terms of public education," Mechai said, adding, "A new generation hasn't heard much about HIV. They think it's gone" (Schuettler, Reuters, 7/6).
A kaisernetwork.org video feature -- prepared by Fred de Sam Lazaro, who also is a correspondent for the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" -- includes interviews with people who are on front lines of efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in Thailand. The video is the fourth in a series of spotlights from kaisernetwork.org on local efforts around the world to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The other features -- which examine HIV/AIDS in Haiti, Brazil and India -- also are available online.