AIDS activist Mechai “Mr. Condom” Viravaidya discusses several “out-of-the-box” methods for promoting condom distribution and safe-sex practices in his native Thailand. Khun Mechai is the founder of the Population and Development Association and promotes having safe sex since sex in natural and absinence is difficult for most of the population. He shares his ideas such as the “Cops and Rubbers” program where the police force is recruited to help save people on the streets and back seats. His humor about sex makes it possible to bring this traditionally taboo topic out into the open in Thailand.
About this video:
Mechai Viravaidya was recently awarded the 2007 Gates Award for Global Health on behalf of The Population and Community Development Association (PDA), the organization he founded in 1974. For over 30 years, PDA has helped improve lives and strengthen communities in Thailand through HIV prevention and family planning programs that have become international models. The programs developed by Viravaidya and PDA led to a dramatic reduction in new HIV infections in Thailand, from 143,000 in 1991 to 21,000 in 2003.
Using a nationwide network of village-based volunteers, PDA empowers women to plan their pregnancies, giving both mothers and children the opportunity to live healthier lives. PDA’s comprehensive approach to poverty reduction also addresses income generation, water resource development, sanitation projects, environmental conservation, and promotion of gender equality and democracy.
Today, PDA’s 600 employees and more than 12,000 volunteers work in 18 regional development centers and branch offices throughout Thailand. Through its international training program, PDA has trained 2,900 people from 50 countries in innovative approaches to HIV prevention, family planning, adolescent reproductive health and other issues.
Dengue fever is up 94% from last year. Currently, the most affected provinces are Narathiwat, Phayao, Krabi, Chiang Rai, Rayong, Songkhal, Pattani, Petchabun and Trat. Experts think that a longer raining season can be affecting the rise in the disease.
While I was living in Thailand as a teenager, I contracted dengue fever and spent one week in the hospital with an IV drip. Actually, I went to the local clinic and was first diagnosed with the flu. However, within the next two days my condition had worsened to the point that I was admitted to Samitivej Hospital. I was treated for the symptoms of the disease but I want not diagnosed with dengue until my blood tests returned from Australia. This was almost 12 years ago, so I hope that diagnosis for dengue is better now.
I highly recommend using insect repellent, even during the day, to avoid getting bit by the mosquitoes carrying this disease. Also, try to get rid of any pools or puddles of stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed. If you suspect you have dengue fever – get to the doctor quickly.
Basic Information on Dengue
Dengue (pronounced DENG-gay) fever is short for dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) and is common in the tropics including South American and Southeast Asian countries. Dengue can be life-threatening, especially for very young children or elderly. Dengue differs from malaria in that it is equally common in urban areas as in rural areas, although they are both spread via mosquito vectors. Dengue is transmitted to humans by the striped Aedes (Stegomyia) aegyptior Aedes albopictus mosquito, which are daytime feeding mosquito.
Symptoms of Dengue Fever
Fever, headaches, eye pain, severe dizziness and loss of appetite
hemorrhagic tendency (bruising, bleeding, vomiting blood or bloody diarrhea)
Thrombocytopenia – Low blood platelets
Dengue commonly strikes people with low levels of immunity. It is possible to get dengue fever multiple times even though an attack of dengue produces immunity for a lifetime to a particular serotype of the virus (there are 4 serotypes). Dengue goes by other names like “breakbone fever” from the intense joint and muscle pain often associated with the disease.
Rabies is a deadly disease prevalent in Thailand. It is a virus spread by bites and scratches from an animal that is a carrier of the virus. Symptoms of rabies are frothing at the mouth, running around wildly and snapping at the air. Any warm-blooded animal can be a carrier of rabies.
All dogs and cats are required to be vaccinated. The vaccine is cheap and readily available from veterinarians around the country. Boosters should be given annually.
Unfortunately, routine vaccinations are rarely enforced in Thailand and it is up to the pet owners to be responsible and ensure that their pet is up to date on its vaccinations. To make the situation worse, the millions of stray dogs and cats who have no owners rarely receive health care of any kind, let alone annual vaccinations.
Thailand is one of the countries with the highest risk for travelers. About 200-300 human deaths are contributed to rabies annually in Thailand with 95% of those due to dog bites (from Medical College of Wisconsin).
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It has been called “a forgotten disease”. Yet, rabies claims 55,000 lives worldwide per year – with most deaths occurring in rural areas of Africa and Asia.
It is a disease that can be eliminated, as has happened in developed countries. But in Asia the fight often faces cultural challenges.
Selina Downes reports from Bangkok.