“We have now found the weapon of mass protection” said Mechai Viravaidya
(a.k.a. the “Condom King”) at the recent TEDxChange
event in New York. Viravaidya is the founder and chairman of the Population and Community Development Association
and a former senator of Thailand. He spoke about his innovative approaches to addressing Thailand’s once high rates of poverty, child mortality, and HIV through the promotion of family planning and condom use.
Viravaidya’s philosophy: to popularize condoms and make them more ubiquitous than coffee. Among his many ideas was a “Coffee and Condom stall” with the slogan, “Starbucks keeps you awake; we keep you awake, and alive.”
His other tactics included a “Cops and Rubbers” program, a “Miss Condom” beauty pageant, a teachers’ condom blowing competition, and a 4th of July “Vasectomy Festival.”
Viravaidya’s creative techniques proved highly successfully at curbing Thailand’s population growth and HIV rate. He said that when he started his work in 1974, Thailand had an average of 7 children per family, and that number had dropped to 1.5 by 2000 (UNPD reports 5.05 children per family in 1974 and 1.81 in 2000). Viravaidya also said that his programs succeeded in reducing new HIV/AIDS infections by 90% between 1991 and 2003, saving an estimated 7.7 million lives.
In his TEDxChange speech Viravaidya emphasizes the need for family planning as a tool for poverty-reduction. He closed his talk with a plea to include access to voluntary family planning as the “9th Millennium Development Goal:” “If we want the MDGs to work, we have to add family planning,” he said.