The latest studies show that many more Thai teens and young adults have contracted sexually transmitted diseases (STD) partly because they have the wrong notion of trust.
“Even though I know condoms prevent STDs, I still wouldn’t ask my boyfriend to wear one.”– a college student, who takes birth-control pills, said. “It feels better [without a condom] and we trust each other.”
However, the number of Thais aged 15 to 24 who have caught an STD has jumped over the past six years. Statistics compiled by Department of Disease Control show.
In just six years, the number of teens with STD infection has doubled from 80.8 to 161.2 per 1,000 people.
The most common infections among them include gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, chancroid and genital herpes.
“This is because they wrongly believe that not using a condom is a way to show they trust their partner.”
The workshop was organized by the Women’s Health Advocacy Foundation (WHAF) in Chiang Mai.
She said that teens are aware of the importance of condoms, but because they love their partners, they do not want to show they “distrust” them.
The traditional belief in Thailand is that condoms are used by women whose partner is promiscuous.
Teen Pregnancy and STDS
“Teenagers forget that using a condom is necessary,” Kittipong Saejeng, director of the Reproductive Health Bureau, said.
Prophylactics such as pills, injections or implants can protect women from pregnancy, but not from sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/Aids or venereal disease.
“Without condoms, girls are also more likely to contract the HPV virus and develop cervical cancer,” he warned.
The HPV vaccination does not provide complete protection from cervical cancer as it only covers 70 percent of HPV strains. That’s another reason to use condoms, he said.
A study conducted last year by the Department of Disease Control on sexually active Mathayom 5 students, aged 17 to 18, across the country showed that 80 percent of boys and 79 percent of girls used a prophylactic.
Condoms During Intercourse
However, when asked if they had used a condom the last time they had intercourse, only 76 percent of boys and 71 percent of girls said yes.
“In order to tackle this problem, we need to think like them [teenagers]. We need to change their attitude. Using condoms does not mean that you love or trust your partner less,” Kanokwan said.
Meanwhile, A Health Ministry plan to help teens access condom with vending machines has caused a furore with parents at Thai Schools. Many parents believe that condom vending machines are offensive, obscene and endorse sex for students aged 13 to 18.
‘No, no. They would kill me if I did,” said Linda Woharadi, the head teacher of Mathayomprachaniwet School. “They” are the parents of students. And they would be less than impressed if condom vending machines were installed at her school.
But her 35 years working as an educator have given her a different view on the matter.
“Sex does not have to be a mysterious issue,” she told Spectrum. “Teens might have less self-control than adults, but public openness on the issue would make students safer. They wouldn’t have to go about it in a sneaky way she said.
“I am just talking as someone who sees the world for what it is.”
Prevent and Protect with Condoms
Health Ministry statistics show that from 2005 to 2014, an average of 35 in every 100,000 people aged 10 to 19 became infected with sexually transmitted diseases, up from eight in every 100,000 a decade earlier.
Department of Health figures also reveal there were 3,725 new mothers aged 15-19 in 2012, more than double the 1,465 recorded in the year 2000.
The government distributes condoms throughout the country under several national initiatives, including the Integrated Framework for Prevention of Teen Pregnancy 2015-2024.
The plan aims to cut teen pregnancy rates in half by distributing more than 50 million condoms, with 37 million expected to be handed to young people.
Early last month, the Department of Disease Control and the Health Ministry also published a condom strategy for the next four years, outlining how officials intend to stem the spread of STDs. One of its goals is “to adjust public attitudes so that condoms are seen as an ordinary medical item”.
Condoms in Vending Machines
The strategy threw its weight behind the installation of condoms in vending machines in schools nationwide. Allowing teens better access to cheap and safe condoms.
The plan itself escaped wide public debate, but the response from the Office of Basic Education Commission (Obec) chief caused a stir.
Kamol Rodklai secretary general of the office quickly denounced the idea of having condom machines in schools. Arguing that it is “highly inappropriate” and a form of “premature sexual exposure”.
Sophon Mekthon, the Health Ministry official in charge of the national condom strategy, told Spectrum the proposal for condom machines in schools is “no longer on the table”. Therfore other ideas in the strategic plan are being carried forward.
Central government officials are not the only ones to have faced a backlash over condom machines.
Late last month, Bangkok City Hall revealed that it removed several condom vending machines from public schools and parks. Including Saranrom Park, after complaints from members of the public who found the machines “disturbing”.