Sunday, November 14, 2010

Safe-Sex in Thailand

Last week, IRIN Asia PlusNews reported that only 2% of Thailand's AIDS budget goes toward condoms, thus "stack[ing] the odds" against the country's attempts to promote safe-sex and curb the prevalence of HIV, which is currently more than 1% - one of the highest rates in the region.

There are currently 481,770 people living with HIV in Thailand, with 10,000 new infections each year, according to the UN's 2010 report from the General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS.

Although the most-at-risk groups continue to be injection drug users and men who have sex with men, Thailand's Epidemic Model projects that more than one-third of new HIV infections in 2010 will occur in long-term relationships and 7 percent from risky sex.

Despite these figures, Thailand's condom marketing and distribution budget of US$775,000 has continued to focus on the commercial sex industry.

Michael Hahn, UNAIDS country coordinator for Thailand, told IRIN that the Thai goverment "thinks there are enough condoms easily available and affordable in the market, and they don't see the need for providing them," an assumption that is "now under review as the country plans its national strategy for 2012 to 2016."

"Instead of equating condoms with sex work and sexually transmitted infections, we need to change the image - that they're for safety and for love," according to Praween Payapvipapong, an adviser to the Bangkok NGO Population and Community Development Association, noting that a shift in attitude is needed in addition to an increase in condom distribution funds.

According to the Department of Disease Control , 60% of sexually active teenagers do not regularly using condoms, 50% of MSM and 40% of sex workers.

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