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Thailand has made strides in the fight against HIV, but must do more to directly prevent HIV transmission among men who have sex with men, transgender people, and sex workers. Midnight Poonkasetwattana, Executive Director of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM), says it is crucial that the government and healthcare providers create a more welcoming and supportive environment for high-risk groups.
Poonkasetwattana says that in Bangkok, one in three men who have sex with men (MSM) are HIV positive and that 40 percent of new cases in 2012 occurred among MSM. UNICEF reports that HIV infections are at 500,000 and are on the rise among men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and young people generally.
APCOM has launched a Test BKK campaign encouraging gay men in particular to get tested every three to six months. The Test BKK tagline is: “Suck F*#K Test Repeat.” The organization aims to destigmatize gay sex and instead promote a healthy sex life. The campaign emphasizes the importance of knowing one’s HIV status, and the Test BKK website reads, “casual disregard for HIV does not make the disease go away.” APCOM has tried to reach gay men through light-hearted, humorous videos such as a short titled “Birthday Surprise.” A young man flips through a scrapbook and finds a CD titled “Sex 101,” and when he plays it, finds it is a video of two men having sex. The young man’s family walks in with a birthday cake and party favors while he is masturbating to the video. The message: “There are more awkward things than getting tested.”
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