Don't shy away from condoms, Thailand says ahead of Valentine's Day
By Panarat Thepgumpanat
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand launched a campaign on Thursday urging citizens to get used to carrying condoms, as it battles a reluctance to use protection in the fight against HIV and teen pregnancies.
Valentine's Day on Feb. 14 is the usual time of year for Thai authorities to warn against premarital sex, but this time the emphasis is on protection rather than prohibition.
Most Thais take a conservative view of sex, despite a massive commercial industry cent red on the famed red light areas of places such as Bangkok, the capital, and the beach resort of Pattaya.
But rapid urbanization is leading more young people to have their first sexual experiences earlier, health officials say.
"Teenagers, especially, do not have to be embarrassed about buying condoms," said Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong of the Ministry of Public Health.
"Society also has to accept that teenage girls buy condoms, which is better than more teenage girls getting pregnant."
Thailand has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Southeast Asia, the Bureau of Reproductive Health says, with the number of teenage mothers second only to neighboring Laos.
"We have to persuade Thais to accept condoms as a hygiene item in everyday life to protect against pregnancy and AIDS," said Panumard Yarnwaidsakul, deputy director-general of the Department of Disease Control. Continued...