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Be open-minded over condom use among teens, public urged


Sex education and women's rights advocates have called for the public to be more open-minded about young people carrying condoms as it is an effective means to protect themselves and society.

The group defended the health ministry's controversial TV campaign spots Yued Ok Pok Thung (Proud to carry condoms) as being well-intended and not being about teenagers' sexual desires.

The issue was discussed at a seminar held by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation following widespread criticism of the campaign, which has been on free TV for two months.

Critics, including some NGOs and members of the public, said the TV spots, which encourage youths to carry condoms wherever they go, have damaged Thai culture and even encouraged teenagers engaging in sexual activity.

But participants at the seminar mostly agreed that sex is commonplace in today's society and it should even be a "duty" of young people to carry condoms to protect themselves and their partners from unwanted pregnancy, HIV/Aids and other sexual diseases.

Somyos Kittimankong of the Department of Disease Control said society can no longer deny that teenagers are a high-risk group for contracting HIV/Aids despite the fact that condoms are easier to buy than in the past.

He cited a study of the sexual behaviour of 13,429 Matthayom 5 (Grade 11) students in 24 provinces last year, which found that less than half the male students used condoms when they had sex for the first time, while only 43% of female students made their partners use condoms while having sex.

Places where teenagers get condoms include convenience stores, public health centres, pharmacies and condom-vending machines.

Dr Somyos said Thailand was entering the second phase of an HIV/Aids pandemic with new infections continuing to increase. More action, including condom use campaigns, was needed.

Sararee Sae-Iaw, head of the Bali Hai vocational youth group from Chon Buri, said most teenagers in her group did not feel any special desire for sex after seeing the TV spots.

"Condoms are common things, and seeing them has nothing to do with our sexual desires," said Ms Sararee.

Nathapong Suksiri, of Youth Net against HIV/Aids, said since the TV spots began teenagers felt more at ease buying condoms at convenience stores or getting them from community health centres.

"I think the spots make them feel more responsible for themselves and for society by carrying condoms," Mr Nathapong said.

Ladda Tangsuphachai, director of the Culture Watch Centre of the Culture Ministry, said she was not against the condom campaign, but felt it may be too soon for everyone to accept the idea.

"I believe no parents want their children to have sex before graduation. Besides, parents are different. Some understand the issue better, but some don't.

"Working with parents who have doctorates and those who are market vendors requires different strategies. Any educational media should be made acceptable to every group," said Ms Ladda.


Copyright © 2007 -Bangkok Post, Publisher. All rights reserved to The Bangkok Post. Reproduction of this article (other than one copy for personal reference) must be cleared through the Bangkok Post.

Information in this article was accurate in September 19, 2007. 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.