Faced with an “emergency situation”, Thai authorities organised the first mass HIV testing for young gay men in Bangkok.
Held in a glitzy downtown ballroom and in partnership with AIDS activist group TestBKK, the ‘Fresh Up’ party aimed to encourage routine testing among gay men. “The event is the new approach to discuss and exchange attitudes about HIV so we can reach our target easier,” said TestBKK campaign coordinator Philip Lim.
Over the past decade, HIV has spread rapidly among Thai gay men, especially among those living in large urban areas and international tourist destinations such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Pattaya.
And the situation doesn’t seem to be improving: a recent UNAIDS report found gay men account for 41% of all new HIV cases in Thailand. Experts point to a number of factors for the stubbornly high percentage: a booming Thai economy leading to an increase in gay venues; the emergence of hook-up apps; and a growth in crystal meth use.
Also, up until recently, when it came to HIV prevention education gay men were completely ignored. But it seems Thai authorities are waking up to the scale of the problem and have embarked on an awareness campaign specifically aimed at young gay men. And in October, Thailand became the first country in Asia to offer treatment to everyone living with HIV.