Bangkok Governor says ‘rise’ in HIV is because of gay TV shows

Bangkok’s Deputy Governor has blamed gay characters in the media for a rise in new HIV cases among gay men.

Thaweesak Lertprapan made the claims while speaking to media in Thailand’s capital after chairing a government conference on HIV.

He said it was now ‘fashionable’ to be gay and that made men who have sex with men (MSM) at higher risk of acquiring HIV than other groups.

Thaweesak believed more gay TV characters meant men were rushing into sex without enough education about sexual health.

‘The risk to HIV is increasing among gay men more than other groups because of men imitating behavior from TV soap operas and social media,’ he told media.

‘This has made being gay fashionable and hastened the coming-out process among youths.’

HIV advocates criticized the Deputy Mayor’s comments saying they were not based on any kind of evidence.

‘I don’t agree with him. I think it’s an opinion which doesn’t have any supporting study or research to support,’ Nimit Tienudom, director of the AIDS Access Foundation, told Khao Sod English.

Media matters

Advocates gay TV  characters made it more acceptable to be gay. It also made it more acceptable and easier for people to access sexual health information.

‘[A] big issue is that many young gay men don’t seek out HIV education, testing and treatment services for fear of the discrimination and exclusion they could experience if they’re ‘outed’ or if they are diagnosed with HIV,’ Midnight Poonkassetwattana, executive director of APCOM told Khao Sod English.

‘Having gay characters on TV helps make young gay men feel more comfortable about their sexuality which in turn means it’s more likely that they will seek support for issues related to HIV and their health.’

HIV numbers steady

Even though Thailand is one of 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region that accounts for 95% of new HIV cases, the data proves HIV is not on the rise.

Thaweesak admitted he didn’t have data to back up his claims. He said he had just repeated what someone at the conference had told him.

UNAIDS shows a dramatic decline of new HIV cases in Thailand since the early 1990s which refute Thaweesak’s claims.

Source: Bangkok Governor says ‘rise’ in HIV is because of gay TV shows


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