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
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
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.