TED conference – How condoms became famous in Thailand?


Mechai Viravaidya is a popular name in Thailand and started a mission to tackle poverty in Thailand in 1974.  He identified that the main problem at that time was the population in Thailand, which was about 7 children per family with annual population growth of 3.3%.  Viravaidya gave a brief overview of his struggle and success in promoting use of condoms in Thailand at Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) annual conference.  TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. 

To begin with Viravaidya was successful in reducing child per family to 1.5 children by 2000 with annual growth rate of 0.5%.  This is significant and its interesting, how he did it.  Here is the snapshot: 

Family planning program
Off course Viravaidya needed to put together a family planning program, but his approach was bit different and to my understand was appropriate 

Contraceptive Pills:  Pills could be prescribed and at that time in Thailand, there was dearth of doctors.

  • Took help of nurses and mid-wives to promote birth controlling pill
  • Put ordinary people on task, who practiced family planning and had good name in community 

Condoms campaign:  Viravaidya is mostly famous for making condoms popular and it was not a single day task. These are some of the methods that he used

  • Holy condom:  Took help of monks to sprinkle holy water on condoms.  People though condoms don’t have side effects as it has been “blessed”
  • Schools:  320,000 teachers were educated and trained in a span of 5 years.  There were contest like balloon blowing contest, relay races using condom as prop.
  • Games:  Games like snake and ladder related to condom become popular.
  • Micro-credit to women:  Women who practiced family planning were given credit to run...

    their business in villages 

The message was spread in clear and bold letters that condom was women’s best friend (not diamond). 

Then came the AIDS problems in Thailand and Viravaidya put together program to reduce AIDS by 90% from 1991 – 2003, as a result 7.7 million lives were saved. 

The AIDS campaign involved making condoms more popular and here are some tricks that were used:

  • Took help from radio and television stations
  • All media persons were trained in AIDS campaign
  • prevention through school like 3rd grade children distributing info and condoms
  • skids like captain condom, MBA – setting up role “condom” as model  
  • You could find condoms everywhere, taxi, police, min bars
  • Condoms in any form – clothing – hairband, pouch for cell (to protect from rain)


Slogans like “weapon of mass protection”, “in rubber we trust” were made popular. 

I would encourage you to watch this video:


Why are touting the efforts put forth by Viravaidya in making condoms famous?  Developing countries like India has a lot of poverty and population is one of the main causes.  Somebody needs to address this issue and do “viral” campaigning like done by Viravaidya to help Thailand.

Source:  Medgadget

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