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Thailand's HIV/AIDS Prevention Program Absent, Endangering Country, Advocates Say

May 25, 2006

Thailand's HIV prevention program has all but disappeared, putting the country's population at increased risk of contracting the virus, according to some HIV/AIDS advocates, Thailand's Nation reports. Several HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment measures -- including HIV/AIDS education for injection drug users; universal access to antiretroviral drugs; and "merit based" access to HIV/AIDS treatment for migrant workers -- which the government in 2004 at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Bangkok said it would introduce, have not yet been implemented, Mechai Viravaidya, founder and chair of the Population & Community Development Association, said. According to Petchsri Sirinirund, an HIV/AIDS expert for the Ministry of Public Health's Disease Control Department, the high mobility of migrant workers, of whom there are about two million in the country, helps to spread HIV. Mechai added that without prevention programs targeted at migrant workers, HIV will continue to spread among the general population. "Thailand's acclaimed achievements in HIV prevention are history," Mechai said, adding, "In the past three years, people working in the field have realized the epidemic is back." According to the Nation, condom use among young people has decreased while the rate of sexually transmitted infections has increased. Petchsri said the 2007 national AIDS plan will focus on HIV prevention (Arthit, Nation, 5/24).

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