Thaksin Shinawatra: 'Our new approach to sex, drugs and prostitution'

From a speech by the Thai Prime Minister at the 15th International Aids Conference in Bangkok
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Despite an abundance of knowledge on how to prevent HIV, and in spite of significant medical advancement in the treatment of Aids, there are still too many new infections every day. And Thailand is not immune from this situation. We are aware that there are still many groups of people who need more attention, with regard to both the prevention and care services.

The epidemic among injecting drug users in our country is a prime example of such phenomenon. Today, our laws and regulations have changed, for the better. In the past, drug use was treated like a crime, which warranted severe punishment. Our mindsets have changed, and we now see drug users as patients, who require support and treatment.

When we first faced the problem of the HIV epidemic among sex workers and their clients, we realised that immediate action needed to be taken. We mounted our response through the "100 per cent condom" programme. The programme's strategies focus on door-to-door education among sex workers, and the distribution of free condoms in order to promote the use of condoms in every sexual act. As a result, the rate of condom use has been significantly raised from a very low level to more than 95 per cent in just a few years.

At the same time, HIV infection rates among sex workers have dropped from 30 per cent in the mid 1990s to less than 10 per cent today. It is estimated that this simple programme has averted more than five million infections among the Thai people.