PHUKET: Phuket is trying to bolster its defense against AIDS by increasing education and stepping up the distribution of condoms. But the province faces stiff resistance from the local population. According to Dr Boonrieng Chuchaisangrat, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office, the reason Phuket has the second highest rate of AIDS infection in southern Thailand is that both the disease and the use of condoms are misunderstood. He says that when people listen to the news about those afflicted with AIDS, or hear that the AIDS population in Phuket is increasing, they all point their fingers at the doctors and the prostitutes. But they don’t seem to realize that without proper protection the disease could easily come to themselves or their loved ones. Every other province in Thailand seems to accept the condom policy as a means of protection, but Phuket residents view condoms as a sex incentive, Dr Boonrieng told the Gazette today. He emphasizes that Phuket needs to change this point of view. The government has tried to set up condom vending machines in public places and in the schools, but these initiatives have been rejected. “People believe it’s none of the government’s business, and that it’s up to the doctors to deal with it,” says Dr Boonrieng. He adds that, “there are pornography magazines and CDs for sale on the streets, and there is the expanding use of the Internet for downloading pornography. People don’t seem to have a problem with this, but when condoms are put in the same public realm there are complaints that this will increase people’s sex drive and cause problems.” Dr Boonrieng also says parents worry that giving out condoms in school may put pressure on students who aren’t interested in sex. Several schools outside of Phuket now teach modern sex education to help students understand the use of condoms. In some places, the protective devices are even given to primary school children to help them understand that condoms are not a threat, but rather a defense for their own protection in the future. The children even use the condoms to make flowers and other items. Dr Boonrieng told the Gazette that if such modern practices were to be introduced in the schools here, the parents would begin rioting in the streets.
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