Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva won applause yesterday from people with HIV after he volunteered to be a presenter - as an "honest husband" who loves only his wife - for a campaign to reduce HIV and Aids among housewives.
"The number of HIV/Aids infections among housewives has increased as drastically as other groups. Housewives would not be at risk of getting HIV if their husbands had been totally honest with them. And I am ready to be a presenter for this issue," he said in a speech yesterday at the 12th National Aids Conference at Impact Muang Thong Thani Exhibition Centre.
More than 33 million people around the world have said to be living with HIV/Aids at present, including about half a million Thais.
The government says the number of new cases among housewives and youths has risen significantly in recent years, while the incidence among sex workers has been reduced thanks to effective action campaigns.
However, the government plans to change its strategy to try to slash the number of new cases each year from about 15,000 a year to 7,500 cases by the year 2011.
"This is our top goal," the PM said. He asked for state agencies to join hands to counter the spread of HIV, particularly among youths.
The problem of sexual affairs was complicated and made worse, he said, by changes in society such as the development of technology that made communication easier and allowed teenagers to have affairs while they were young.
The average age of children who began to have sex with partners was now 17 years old.
"The use of condoms to prevent HIV infection is the challenge youth groups need to be aware of," he said.
The incidence of HIV among gay men, conscripts and drug users had also increased.
Abhisit said the government would help people living with HIV who registered with the Social Security Fund to get anti-retroviral drugs if they couldn't access such treatment.
However, anti-retroviral drugs were now available at hospitals across the country for people with HIV under the universal health scheme and civil servants medical benefits scheme.
Over 120,000 patients could access this treatment and the government planned to extend it to cover more people.
He also stressed his concern about respecting basic human rights of people with HIV.
Abhisit said he had read news reports about a child with HIV in Yasothon, who was forced to leave school because parents feared their children might also get HIV.
Abhisit said this was discrimination and violated the constitution, especially the principle of human dignity and human rights.
"We have to look out for this to prevent people living with HIV from such discrimination."
Rattana Noita, a representative of 18 HIV/Aids groups in Thailand, said the government had failed to prevent new infections as various groups, such as migrant workers, youths, women, elderly people, injecting drug users, and sexual diverse people had not been seriously protected.
She also said most teachers lacked a deep understanding about sexual education as they had negative attitudes about people living with HIV.
"We have not seen any clear policy from the government over this issue, not only the policy on sexual education in school, but also blood tests for young children aged under 18, as they face discrimination and cannot access to health services," she said.
"Prime minister, you have to stand in the front row to show the general public that Aids prevention starts with self-prevention. And you also have to show us you are ready to create a society in which people help each other to prevent, care for and cure Aids," she said.
"Prime minister, whether you believe it or not, we can live together [if one has HIV]. I wish you good sexual health and consciousness to prevent yourself from having sexual affairs. We want you to be safe, as all of us also want safety and sexual happiness."