Mechai Viravaidya, a former Cabinet minister in Thailand, emerged as an AIDS-fighting crusader in the ’90s with an aggressive campaign to distribute condoms and educate the Thai public about HIV, helping to significantly cut that country’s infection rate.
K. Sujatha Rao, the head of India’s National AIDS Control Program told The Times of India newspaper, that India needs a similar figure.
“We are very serious about finding India’s very own Mr. Condom. He has to have a dynamic personality to change both government policy and public perceptions about HIV, AIDS, sex and condoms,” Rao said.
In Thailand, Mechai’s award-winning campaigning included visiting notorious nightspots to hand out condoms and holding contests to see who could blow condom-shaped balloons the fastest.
However, such antics may not work in India, because people are not only using condoms for balloons, but also for various ingenuous purposes already:
Of the 891 million condoms meant to be handed out free, most were used by road contractors, who mixed them with concrete and tar to create a smooth surface.
Health activists said millions of condoms were melted down for their latex and made into toys. Others were dyed and sold as balloons.
In rural areas, villagers used them as water containers. India’s soldiers covered their gun barrels with condoms as protection against dust.
Only a quarter of about 1.5 billion condoms made each year were “properly utilised”.
If this continues, the six-fold increase in spending will just go up as hot air in a condom-balloon.