HIV rates rise among Thai youth

A study published by UNICEF suggest that Thais are becoming more complacent about the virus.

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    AIDS is still the fifth leading cause of death in Thailand [Getty]
    AIDS is still the fifth leading cause of death in Thailand [Getty]

    As awareness campaigns and medical advances have made their impacts felt, the global panic over HIV that marked the 80's and the 90's has faded.

    People now know that the virus is not that easily transmitted - especially with medication that reduces that risk - and that having it is no longer the death sentence it once was.

    But a study published by UNICEF shows that perhaps Thais are becoming too complacent about the disease. It finds that while infections are falling overall in Thailand, they are rising among young people aged between 15 and 24.

    Many in this age group don't remember the years in the 90s when HIV was Thailand's leading cause of death - killing more people than heart disease or road accidents.

    Since that time there has been a sharp decline in HIV deaths, but it’s still the fifth leading cause of death in the country.

    The problem is, because of the success so far in tackling the problem, many young people see it as something that affects the older generation, and so don’t take the precautions they should.

    The report - "Situational Analysis of Young People at High Risk of HIV Exposure in Thailand" - points out another interesting potential factor behind this rise in HIV infections among today’s youth - social media.

    Much of the success the movement has had so far is the result of grassroots awareness work, especially among Thailand’s gay communities.

    Activists and health experts would visit gay bars and clubs and hold talks or forums - there was a strong community in the physical sense to reach out to.

    This community is weaker today than it was before. The report suggests this may be because of social media making it easier for people to meet up without having to go to a bar or club - dating apps allow users to arrange meetings without having to leave their homes, making it a lot harder for people working on HIV issues to reach out to the mostly young people who use these apps.

    It would be absurd to suggest that the battle against HIV has defeated itself - but these findings do show that the fight is still very much on.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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