April 4, 2011
The government is boosting HIV prevention efforts targeting men who have sex with men in response to data showing an alarming rise in infections among MSM.
Central to the initiative is the installation of condom machines in 188 venues in areas popular with tourists and MSM. The Department of Disease Control (DDC)'s AIDS, TB and STD Bureau is tasked with completing the project by 2012.
"We expect the HIV infection rate among gay men to fall after the condoms become more available and easy to access," Dr. Paijit Warachit, permanent secretary for the Public Health Ministry, said at the project's launch.
Ministry data show roughly one-third of 10,853 new HIV cases last year were among MSM. The ministry said that rate could increase to 50 percent in the next 14 years without intervention.
Kittinun Daramadhaj, president of the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand, stressed the need for information on correct condom use. "Even though condoms have now become available in many places, education to teach gay men how to use them correctly is still an important thing," he said. Some use the wrong size; others withdraw the condom improperly after sex, he said.
In addition, the price of condoms should not exceed 1 baht (US 3 cents), said Kittinun. Many young men complain that condoms are too expensive, prompting them to forgo their use. "This is the real situation happening today," he said.
Dr. Somsak Akarasilp, deputy director-general of DDC, pledged the department will ask for 100 million baht (US $3.3 million) next year for HIV/AIDS prevention, with the majority supporting condom distribution.