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Commentary: Keep condoms off campus




 

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 and upcountry.

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 internet.

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.



 


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Information in this article was accurate in December 1, 2003. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.