PDI - PDA and HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention
The Dark Ages
HIV/AIDS has been prevalent in Thailand since 1984, though at that
time, HIV/AIDS was considered a disease which affected only high risk
groups such as: men having sex with men, intravenous drug users and
sex workers. Additionally, government leaders were reluctant to discuss
the issue. With little attention paid to this critical scenario, Thailand
was heading for a full-blown disaster.
With the alarming increase of cases reported, PDA became an anti-AIDS
activist organization. It was in 1991, when the newly appointed Prime
Minister, Mr. Anand Panyarachun, assumed the responsibility of tackling
HIV/AIDS and created the National AIDS Committee that the denial ended.
What followed was evidence that attention from leaders, prime ministers,
government officials, non-governmental organizations, businesses,
civil society and the community can effectively curb the epidemic’s
spread. PDI - PDA played a key role in both advocacies for senior
level political commitment as well as in implementing programs to
reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The PDI - PDA and
Condoms, Social Marketing and the Media
In Thailand, a condom is society’s best friend. The interconnectedness
of a massive condom distribution campaign and a reduction in the spread
of HIV/AIDS is undeniable as seen in Thailand’s efforts during
the early 1990s. Education was the forerunner in the acclaimed “100%
Use Condom Program,” which required condom use in all sex establishments.
PDI - PDA introduced creative interventions to desensitize condoms,
such as massive television and radio campaigns broadcasting anti-HIV/AIDS
information on prevention and compassion every hour on six television
networks and 488 government radio stations. PDI - PDA delivered a
nationwide information education campaign with mandatory educational
training on the proper facts of AIDS to government offices, hospitals,
banks, businesses and schools. More daring interventions were introduced,
such as ‘Cops-n-Rubbers,’ whereby police officers distributed
condoms along with their citations. Children’s songs were infused
with HIV/AIDS facts; popular board games revised to include education
on HIV/AIDS. Condom blowing contests became a familiar activity in
many circles of Thailand. PDI - PDA also introduced a mobile anonymous HIV/AIDS testing and counseling clinic so services could be brought
to the people.
Education through humor! Mechai protects his mobile phone with a condom
With political support, PDI - PDA was able to orchestrate an anti-AIDS
public education campaign which played a most significant role in
bringing down the rate of new infections during the early 1990s. All
segments of society became involved including religious leaders, teachers,
hospitals, businesses, monks, sex workers, even drug users. ‘Mechai’
become a household name associated with condoms: a veritable AIDS
Tsar. Thailand’s integrated and innovative approach to reducing
HIV/AIDS cases using leadership and a multi-sectored approach proved
successful. Initial reports indicated that HIV/AIDS in Thailand was
decreasing. This multi-sectored approach continues today in Thailand.