National condom strategy proposed

National condom strategy proposed

A "national strategy on condoms", proposed by the Public Health Ministry, aims to curb unwanted teenage pregnancies and protect people from sexual diseases and Aids. Thailand has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the world.

The scheme, yet to be approved, as it needs to undergo a public hearing, would start next year and run for four years, a seminar was told yesterday.

The Public Health Ministry's Disease Control Department has pushed for the scheme, which deputy department head Dr Somsak Atthasil described as a world first.

The idea originated in 1987 when more than 150,000 Thais contracted HIV, but the need for this was reinforced by data over the past five years showing that the number of teenagers with venereal disease had doubled.

A study also found that only 40 per cent of teenagers used condoms during sex, which caused unwanted pregnancies and the spread of diseases.

The scheme has five objectives - to raise awareness on the use of condoms and ensure greater acceptance among parents of the possibility of their children using condoms; to provide easier access for people to buy condoms and lubricant; to improve and control the quality of condoms; to build an environment that persuades individuals to use condoms; and promote study and evaluation of activities about condom use.

Somsak said most Thai parents were reluctant to accept the sale of condoms via vending machines in schools, though many realised that condoms were the best and easiest way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and venereal diseases for their children.

The scheme would be conducted with heightened awareness campaigns. It would see condoms in Thailand made in two categories based on the quantity of lubricant on the outside - those with the quantity under a World Health Organisation standard of 50mg apiece, and those with extra lubricant, according to Dr Wiwat Rojjanaphitthayakorn, an expert with Ramathibodi's Faculty of Medicine.

Condoms with extra lubricant would favour both the sex workers, for extra pleasure, and clients, who will be encouraged by sex workers to always use condoms.

This would ensure a greater chance of curbing the spread of disease.

Dr Kittiphong sae-Jeng, a senior ministry official, said women under 25 undergo abortions at state hospitals in 13 provinces while the rate was also high for teenagers.

He said condom use could also prevent or minimise the chance of intercourse-related cancer of the cervix and anus in women.

An official with the United Nations Population Fund, Wassana Im-aim, said the annual birth rate in Thailand could be cut to 600,000 over the next few decades from the current rate of 800,000 babies a year.

At present, teenage mothers have about 130,000 children in Thailand each year.

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