Thailand Valentine's Day campaign tackles condom stigma

This picture taken on 27 June 2012 shows Thanakorn or Gigi packing condoms with leaflets before giving them to transgender people at The Poz Home Center in Bangkok Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Thai authorities say they want to focus the societal stigma on using condoms

Thailand has launched a campaign ahead of Valentine's Day urging teenagers not to be ashamed to carry condoms.

The tone appears to have shifted from previous campaigns, where teenagers were encouraged to visit temples and go home after dates instead of having sex.

Thailand has one of the world's highest teen pregnancy rates and rising numbers of sexually transmitted infections.

The campaign, slated to run until 2019, coincides with recent measures aimed at addressing teen pregnancies.

Authorities have encouraged condom use in previous years alongside the promotion of abstinence.

But this year they said they would focus on reducing social stigma on using condoms, as well as increasing access and improving the quality of condoms available.

Thai health ministry spokesman Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong said on Thursday: "Teenagers, especially, do not have to be embarrassed about buying condoms."

"Society also has to accept that teenage girls buy condoms, which is better than more teenage girls getting pregnant," Reuters quoted him as saying.

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Image caption Thailand has been struggling with high adolescent pregnancy rates in recent years

Thailand still remains a conservative society, but has been struggling with high adolescent pregnancy rates in recent years.

More than 50 out of every 1,000 Thai girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year.

A survey last year of Thais aged 15 and older found that nearly half of them were too shy to buy condoms, reported the Bangkok Post.

The paper also said the number of sexually transmitted infections had doubled over the last decade, with a five-fold increase in 10 to 19 year olds. About 450,000 people in Thailand are HIV positive.

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Image caption Officials have been stepping up sex education classes in schools

The government recently passed a bill focussing on better sex education and easier access to condoms for teenagers, as well as providing better assistance to young mothers.

Previous campaigns have seen officials urging teenagers to visit Buddhist temples instead of having pre-marital sex on Valentine's Day. In 2014, the day coincided with Macha Bucha, considered a holy day in Buddhism.

The culture ministry also launched a "Just a Meal for Valentine's Day" campaign encourage teenagers to go home separately after a dinner date, though the authorities still handed out free condoms.

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