Health Dept makes push for safe sex

Health Dept makes push for safe sex

Condom use in at-risk groups not on target

A couple marks Valentine's Day on Friday by registering their same-sex marriage at Bangkok Yai district office. However, their LGBT gender status will not be officially recognised by state authorities. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
A couple marks Valentine's Day on Friday by registering their same-sex marriage at Bangkok Yai district office. However, their LGBT gender status will not be officially recognised by state authorities. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

The Ministry of Public Health is joining hands with partners to promote the use of condoms in an effort to meet its target of bringing down the rate of HIV/Aids infections within the decade.

Montinee Vasantiuppapokakorn, deputy director of the Aids and Sexually Transmitted Disease Division at the Department of Disease Control, said efforts to cut the number of new HIV infections in Thailand are still falling short.

"We see 5,000-6,000 new HIV patients every year but we have to bring it down to less than 1,000 within 10 years. It is an achievable goal but we have difficulty reaching out to our target groups -- gay people, transgenders, prostitutes, and inmates," she said.

Dr Montinee was speaking at the "AHF (Aids HealthCare Foundation) Media Award" event held to mark Valentine's Day yesterday. It was held at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) to give prizes to students competing in a video contest to raise awareness about the use of condoms as a normal practice amid prevalent misconceptions in Thailand.

Dr Montinee said the rate of sexually transmitted infections has soared five fold over the past four years, with 14 teenagers between 15-19 years old being infected every day.

"Some 69.7% are infected with gonorrhoea because it is asymptomatic and thus more easily transmittable. Another 39.3% are infected with syphilis because patients mistake early signs of the disease for the common flu, thereby failing to take action. Despite the staggering rise in infections, the survey shows that only 45% of teenagers use condoms every time they have sex," she said.

She added that 190 teens give birth each day and noted many pregnancies and abortions go unreported.

Dr Montinee stressed that condoms can provide protection against Aids, other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and teen pregnancy.

"Accordingly, the Ministry of Public Health and our partners are joining hands to draft the National Condom Strategy 2020-2030 to promote the regular use of condoms during sexual intercourse and their accessibility," she said.

Dr Montinee said Thais should have access to basic social services, including the provision of condoms, but both the public and private sectors can provide only 70,000,000 condoms per year, falling short of the target number of 105,000,000 pieces.

Even with the emergence of PrEP or PEP drugs, Dr Montinee emphasised that people should still use condoms to protect against STDs.


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