Teenagers are at risk of being infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) due to the widespread prevalence of unprotected sex, says the Aids Health Care Foundation (AHF) Thailand.
Kritsiam Arayawongchai, AHF Thailand Country Programme Director, said AHF Thailand worked with 25 healthcare centres to collect HIV blood tests from 73,081 people aged 15-50+ years old from Jan 1 to Oct 31.
The results showed that 152 or 2.9% of the 5,116 teenagers aged 15-19 years surveyed are new HIV patients.
Those in the 20-24 demographic are also considered at higher risk. Among 15,646 people surveyed in this age bracket, 387, or 2.4%, had HIV.
Mr Kritsiam was speaking at a recent forum, "To Love is Not Wrong, But Do Not Forget to Protect Yourself" co-hosted by the Impulse Bangkok volunteer group for the benefit of 500 high-school students at Wat Ratcha-orot School, to raise their awareness about HIV/Aids.
He said figures from the Disease Control Department show that only 80.3% of youths aged 15-24 wear condoms but the percentage dropped to 40% if they had sex with their regular partners.
"The figures reflect how many youths lack awareness about using condoms to ward off HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Condoms are the most accessible protection and also the best protection for youth. If they do not protect themselves, Thailand cannot achieve its goal of having no new HIV infections by 2030," Mr Kritsiam said.
Woranan Khankaeng, the school principal, said raising awareness about HIV is vital. The school is running a campaign dubbed "Teens Safe from HIV". It also offers consultation and health care services. "Prevention is better than cure. I hope the students will help communicate with their families and friends about safe sex to reduce new infections," he said.