A public health intervention that makes sense?? Can hardly believe it. Right on.
A truck driver’s assistant blows up a condom during an AIDS awareness campaign organised by a non-governmental organisation in Guragon in the northern Indian state of Haryana
Just how embarrassing is a condom? Nurturing nonchalance about condoms seems to have been a key to Thailand’s phenomenal success in combating the spread of HIV, according to a new report from the World Bank.
Thailand has witnessed condom-mania over the last decade, from campaigns such as the “100-percent Condom Program”, which promoted usage among sex workers, to the opening of a chain of “Condoms and Cabbages” restaurants. The result: instead of a projected 7.7 million HIV cases in 2005 there were around half a million – 14 times less than expected.
For every dollar Thailand spent in the last decade on prevention, it has avoided $43 in treatment costs, says Mead Over, a World Bank economist and co-author of the report. Such a benefit-cost ratio is “unheard of”, he says.
Although Thailand faces new problems because of the expense of second-line anti-AIDS drugs, needed after the first-line regime no longer works, the report suggested that the country’s example might be copied successfully in India and China, where the epidemic is at an earlier stage.
But in much of the world people are still bashful about condoms. A survey of HIV-infected men in India, where 4.58 million people carry HIV, found that 40 percent were embarrassed by condoms.
This may change as ever more imaginative ways are found to push condoms onto the average Indian. The latest project, in Andhra Pradesh state, is to deliver a pack of three with every newspaper. The state is the worst affected in the country, with nearly one million known cases of HIV infection in 2005.
“Earlier we distributed condoms at wine shops and bars, through milk vendors and at pan (tobacco) shops but we met with lukewarm response,” says Ashok Kumar, the director of Andhra Pradesh State for AIDS Control Society.
So now, thousands of families in 50 villages and four towns will receive the safe sex message along with their news and cricket scores.