Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Creative Approaches to Education Effectively Fight HIV/AIDS in Thailand

In this enlightening TED Talk, Mechai Viravaidya explores the creative and practical approaches that Thailand has taken toward slowing population growth and reducing poverty. Mr. Mechai, a public health expert and founder of the Population and Community Development Association, has spent almost forty years making innovations in public health, education, and community development.

Since the 1970s, Thailand has been working on targeting population growth as a venue for poverty reduction. One of the most effective ways of slowing population growth? Condom distribution education. Over the last few decades, a number of creative, innovative methods were used to distribute condoms and teach about their use. These have included placing condoms in mini-bars in hotels, having monks bless condoms to legitimize their use, and training village shopkeepers to distribute birth control methods in order to increase local access.

Recently, this family planning campaign has proved extraordinarily effective, not only with respect to family planning, but also in prevention of HIV/AIDS. From 1991-2003, new HIV infections in Thailand declined by 90%, saving an estimated 7.7 million lives. Today, as Mr. Mechai notes, "wherever you find people, you will find condoms."

Mr. Mechai stresses that everyone in a given community must be involved to make any education program effective. In Thailand, everyone from Buddhist monks to school teachers were used as tools of education and outreach. "Don't leave it to the specialists, the doctors, the nurses ... we all need to help!" Mr. Mechai said, reminding us that we all play a part in securing a better future for our world.

-Elizabeth Newton