The Department of Disease Control’s Aids, Tuberculosis and Sexually Transmitted Disease Bureau will install condom machines in 188 sex and entertainment venues including saunas, fitness centres and discotheques in tourism areas and gay communities.
“We expect the HIV infection rate among gay men to fall after the condoms become more available and easy to access,” Public Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr Paijit Warachit said at a press conference to launch the project.
The ministry is planning to install the machines across the country by 2012.
According to a Public Health Ministry report, about one-third of 10,853 new HIV infec?tion cases were men who have sex with men. The ministry expects the infection rate among gay men to increase to 50 per cent of new cases in the next 14 years.
The ministry last year provided 500,000 condoms and 270,000 lubricants to people visiting 38 healthcare centres in Thailand and found that 50 per cent of those who asked for the safe-sex products were aged 16 to 25.
About 13,000 of them were gay men and 10,000 transsexual.
Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand president Kittinun Daramadhaj said gay men, especially in upcountry provinces, were having sex in beauty salons.
“Most beauty salon owners in upcountry provinces are lady boys. They open their salons’ second floors for their gay customers to have sex with casual partners, charging them only 30 baht,” he said.
He added that most gay men are now more likely to use condoms when they have sex with their partners but some do not know how to use condoms correctly.
Some of them use the wrong sizes, which could cause infections during sex. Others do not know the correct way to withdraw a condom after they finish anal intercourse.
“Even though condoms have now become available in many places, education to teach gay men how to use them correctly is still an important thing,” he said.
To help the public access condoms to prevent HIV infection, Kittinun said the price of condoms should not be more than one baht.
He said a lot of young men had complained to him that condoms were too expensive, so they had sex with their partners without them.
“This is the real situation happening today,” he said.
The Department of Disease Control’s deputy director-general, Dr Somsak Akarasilp, said the department would next year ask the government for Bt100 million to support HIV/Aids prevention, especially to buy condoms to distribute to the public.
Dr Phusit Prakongsai of the Public Health Ministry’s International Health Policy Program (IHPP), said the government spent only 1.9 per cent of the health budget or about Bt7 million on Aids in 2009. Just over 76 per cent was for care and treatment and 13.7 per cent was for prevention.
“HIV/Aids is a major health problem for the country but the government is just investing a small amount to prevent this disease,” he said.