India Needs Spokesperson To Promote Condom Use, Safer-Sex Practices To Prevent HIV/AIDS, NACO Official Says
India needs an effective spokesperson to promote condom use and safer-sex practices to prevent HIV transmission, National AIDS Control Organization Director-General Sujatha Rao recently said, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. According to Rao, the spokesperson should be similar to Mechai Viravaidya, one of Thailand's leading HIV/AIDS advocates and former public health minister.
Mechai has been known as "Mr. Condom" since he spearheaded Thailand's national condom promotion initiative 10 years ago (AP/International Herald Tribune, 6/29). Mechai in early April was appointed to design a new federal HIV prevention plan to target Thailand's youth. According to UNAIDS, Thailand has an adult HIV prevalence of about 1.4%, but a World Bank report released last year found that an additional 7.7 million people would be HIV-positive if the country had not implemented effective prevention programs in the 1990s. Much of the credit for that turnaround is attributed to Mechai, who during the past 30 years has used humor and promoted condom use to eliminate the stigma surrounding the discussion of sex in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/30).
"We are very serious about finding India's own Mr. Condom," Rao said, adding that that the spokesperson must "have a dynamic personality to change both government policy and public perceptions about HIV/AIDS, sex and condoms." NACO also plans to recruit graduates from India's management schools to help create strategies for promoting safer sex in the country, according to Rao (AP/International Herald Tribune, 6/29). The government also plans to announce a new five-year, $2.8 billion plan to curb HIV/AIDS that will "heavily" focus on condom promotion, Reuters reports. The United Kingdom's Department of International Development recently announced it would provide about 102 million pounds, or $204 million, for the plan (Reuters, 6/29).