The good intentions of the Ministry of Public Health are not in
question. But its proposal to install condom machines at all
universities to provide students with easy and convenient access
to protection whenever they feel like casual safe sex with their
boy or girlfriends is a bit too much to swallow.
A large number of our sexually active youth, many of them
students, have been infected with HIV/Aids through unprotected
sex, either with sex workers in the case of males or with their
loved ones in the case of females. Although the rate of new
infections among our young has fallen in recent times because
they are more aware of the deadly disease and so practise safe
sex, it seems the Communicable Disease Control Department is not
satisfied and wants even greater safety among students. Hence the
idea of condom machines on university campuses.
This well-meaning proposal has met with stiff resistance from
students and lecturers. A quick survey of opinions conducted
during a panel discussion on the subject during the airing of the
high rating Thoeng look thoeng khon television talk show on
Channel 9 last Thursday night found that more than 60% of the
audience were against the proposal.
One of the panellists, Seri Wongmontha of Thammasat University,
criticised the proposal as being totally improper and outside the
realm of Thai tradition, although he did admit that casual sex
had become quite common among students at tertiary institutes.
Several students attending the discussion shared Mr Seri's
opinion. They said the presence of condom vending machines on
campus might encourage more casual sex among students.
Mr "Condom Man", Mechai Viravaidya, however, thought otherwise.
He said he saw nothing unusual or wrong in having condoms
available for sale on campuses or at pharmacies.
There is no doubt that the presence of vending machines on
campuses will make the rubber sheaths handier for sexually active
students. But this does not mean they cannot obtain condoms
elsewhere with little extra inconvenience. Pharmacies and
convenience stores such as 7-Eleven, where condoms are available
on sale, can be found on almost every street corner in Bangkok
Several opponents of this proposal, myself included, would like
to pose the question to the Communicable Disease Control
Department that if the practice of casual sex has spread to the
younger age group such as those in the mathayomsueksa level, will
the department consider extending the condom dispensing service
to high schools as well? The department knows full well that more
and more students in younger age groups are having sexual
experiences due to their exposure to pornographic videos and the
For almost two decades now, Aids has been the gravest health
threat to human kind, especially in less developed countries.
As elsewhere, the majority of Aids victims in Thailand belong to
the sexually active and working age groups. As such, it has taken
a heavy social and economic toll on its victims, their relatives
and the countries in which they live. While an effective cure is
still many years off, the best prevention is to protect oneself
from contracting the disease through avoidance of sharing needles
in the case of drug addicts and through the use of condoms.
To my knowledge, even in the United States not every university
is equipped with condom vending machines. The Communicable
Disease Control Department may want to follow the example adopted
in western countries. But Thai universities are not ready yet to
accept this service.
Most students will be offended by the presence of these machines.
The proposal is best shelved for now. Perhaps some time in the
future our attitudes will have changed and we will be able to
accept such things.
**Veera Prateepchaikul is Editor,Bangkok Post.