05 July 2007

Thais consider family condom

Thailand's health ministry is thinking about a "family condom" campaign to protect married women from contracting HIV/AIDS.

Thailand's health ministry is thinking about a "family condom" campaign to protect married women from contracting HIV/AIDS from their philandering husbands, media reports said Thursday.

Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla recently mooted the "family condom" solution at a seminar at which it was revealed that 40 per cent of the 18,000 new HIV/AIDS cases detected in Thailand each year were housewives who had contracted the virus from their husbands.

Virus contracted from husbands
"Right now most of the new infected people in Thailand are women and 60 per cent of the women get the virus from their husbands," Mongkol told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) Wednesday night, where he reiterated his call for a "family condom" launch.

But Mongkol, who is working with Thailand's famed "Mr Condom", Mechai Viravaidya, on the project, admitted that distributing free condoms to families would be a hard sell for anti-HIV/AIDS campaigners.

"We need to promote the family condom but Dr Mechai said this one was not accepted in Thailand because gender discrimination is still very severe and wives cannot request their husbands to use a condom," said Mongkol.

Thailand, which has an estimated 600,000 people living with HIV/AIDS and has lost 1 million victims to the deadly virus since it was first detected in the kingdom in the mid-1980s, has won international praise for its past anti-HIV/AIDS campaigns.

Poor preventative measures
But past gains have been overshadowed by recent government neglect of preventative measures, such as education and passing out free condoms to sex workers and other high-risk groups, which has arguably led to increased infections among women and Thai teenagers, many of whom are engaging in unprotected sex.

Mongkol has also won praise from international health organizations for his decision earlier this year to issue compulsory licensing for two anti-viral HIV/AIDS drugs to improve access for the thousands of Thais living with the virus who cannot afford the drugs.

But Mechai, whose past efforts have concentrated more on prevention than cures for the deadly virus, said the compulsory licensing was a symptom of the government's failure to combat the pandemic.

"Compulsory licensing is not a solution to AIDS. It actually reflects the country's failure to promote a prevention campaign," Mechai told a recent gathering of health workers. – (Sapa)

Read more:
Ancient clue to HIV
Un urges SA to use condoms

July 2007


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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