Mechai warns of new HIV/Aids crisis
- Published: 21/12/2012 at 11:05 AM
- Online news:
Thailand’s most prominent HIV/Aids awareness campaigner has warned that the kingdom faces a new crisis from the deadly human immunodeficiency virus.
The United Nations has credited Mechai Viravaidya’s campaign with bringing about a 90% decline in new HIV infections over 12 years from 1991, which the World Bank estimated saved 7.7 million lives.
"The government has fallen asleep at the wheel," on raising HIV/Aids awareness, according to Mechai Viravaidya. The man known as "Mr Condom" says Thailand faces a new crisis from the infection. Photo by Thiti Wannamontha.
But now the man known as “Mr Condom” insists that a new awareness campaign is needed to stop the spread of the virus – and has called on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to spearhead it.
“The Prime Minister could stand up and declare there is again a problem that is sending Thais to early graves,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The campaign should involve everyone, from religious institutions to schools and businesses.”
The HIV/Aids infection rate is rising in Thailand, with 9,470 new cases a year being reported, 80% from unsafe sex.
About 62% of 464,414 people known to be infected with the virus in the country are men, according to the Ministry of Public Health.
“I innocently thought I had done the job… but the government has fallen asleep at the wheel. There is a total indifference to a war we have to fight,” Mechai said.
“With a new campaign we can prevent a lot of early deaths.”
More than a million Thais have been infected with HIV since the first case was reported in the kingdom in 1984.
Mechai says that today an estimated 250,000 Thais are unaware they are HIV positive.
“They are not going for testing and they are having sex around the place,” said the 73-year-old former politician.
“Getting them to be tested should be a priority.”
Mechai believes that a Ministry of Public Health campaign with the slogan “zero new infections” has had little impact and claims that young Thais are not practising safe sex because they are unaware of the risk of HIV infection
“Nobody in government is pushing this. It's pathetic. If you stopped advertising Coca-Cola people would stop drinking it. We have to do the same … talk condoms, condoms and condoms,” he said.
“We now have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the world. We used to have one of the lowest.
“Young Thais don't realise how easy it is to become infected with HIV. They allow their erections to rule their lives rather than their brains.”