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International News

Thailand: Teens' Unsafe Sex Biggest AIDS Threat

June 14, 2006

UNAIDS' latest report placed Thailand among countries that had made significant progress in controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, according to AIDS task force member Sureerat Treemanka, "Teens are a new risk group." She said as many as 30,000 Thais contract HIV each year, many of them teens. Sureerat said the social trend toward "free sex" had not been accompanied by education about responsible sex, and teens' attitudes could lead to risky behavior.

As many as 700,000 Thais could have HIV/AIDS, but most do not know it, experts say. Sureerat estimates around 200,000 know they are infected. About half have access to medicines through the universal health care system. However, during a period of transition in the system's implementation, some hospitals are reluctant to provide HIV/AIDS services. Sureerat said hospitals are worried they will not be paid for such treatment while oversight of the program moves from the Public Health Ministry's AIDS office to the Office of Universal Healthcare.

Although the situation in Thailand may appear to be improving compared with other countries, Sureerat said the epidemic has become more complex. "Our problem is how to deal with people who are living with HIV/AIDS," she noted.

Charin Khonman of Wat Phrabaht Namphu, a temple serving as an AIDS hospice, estimated that three of every 10 Thais with HIV/AIDS keep it a secret, and one in 10 seeks proper medical treatment.

Sureerat said a new AIDS-awareness program run by youth for youth is needed to slow the epidemic, and Thai society will remain vulnerable to the virus until it accepts the importance of safe sex. "We need to accept various kinds of sexual relationships, including those outside marriage, but they must be safe," Sureerat said.

Back to other news for June 14, 2006

Adapted from:
The Nation (Bangkok)

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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