The deputy governor of Bangkok has claimed that rising HIV rates are a result of more “gay TV”.
While speaking to Thai media after governing a conference on HIV, Thaweesak Lertprapan claimed that LGBT+ TV shows had made it more “fashionable” to be gay.
The politician said that the “fashion trend” meant that HIV infections were on the “rise”.
He said: “The risk to HIV is increasing among gay men more than other groups because of men imitating behaviour from TV soap operas and social media.
“This has made being gay fashionable and hastened the coming-out process among youths.”
The comments have been strongly condemned by LGBT+ activists in the country for not being based in fact.
Talking to Khao Sod English, director of the AIDS Access Foundation Nimit Tienudom said that there was no study or research to support the politician.
“I don’t agree with him. I think it’s an opinion which doesn’t have any supporting study or research to support,” they said.
Midnight Poonkassetwattana, executive director of APCOM, added that the real risk of HIV rise came from a lack of sexual health education.
“[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.”
They stressed that having LGBT+ characters on TV could only help as it would make young people coming to terms with their sexuality more comfortable in seeking support.
“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.”
Last year, a trial of anti-HIV injections was launched in Thailand.
GlaxoSmithKline’s majority-owned ViiV Healthcare unit announced that they would be working with U.S. government agencies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on plans to start a four-year trial of injectable pre-exposure phrophylaxis (PrEP).
Studies have shown that taking PrEP in pill form can cut the risk of catching HIV by more than 90 percent, but only if the medication is taken daily.
The World Health Organisation strongly backed the use of PrEP as HIV prevention in 2014, but global provision remains patchy.
To date, PrEP has been approved for use by medical bodies in the United States and the European Union, as well as in Norway, Australia, Israel, Canada, Kenya, South Africa and Taiwan.