Monday, 17 December 2012


Professor Mark Hayter writes:

I attended the international AIDS conference in Amsterdam in 1992 and recall hearing of a organisation heavily involved with HIV prevention in Thailand and South East Asia. They were addressing the alarming rises in HIV infection in the region through a combination of condom awareness, HIV education and community engagement;  Cabbages and Condoms was their curious name.  Over the following decades I have been aware of their continuing work - especially their key role in the remarkable reductions in HIV infections in Thailand

As a regular visitor to Asia I was delighted actually to visit their headquarters in Bangkok earlier this year - and even more delighted to discover that these premises incorporate an excellent Thai restaurant. And it all happened by chance. I scheduled a quick meeting with a friend and colleague Alex Aziz of the International Labour Organisation on my way out of Thailand following a writing workshop I facilitated for the Thai Health Ministry. Alex and I met for lunch just outside one of the largest Shopping Malls in Bangkok. Unaware of my previous knowledge of Cabbages and Condoms he suggested we eat there - a wonderful coincidence. 

Mark Hayter and Alex Aziz
The food was excellent but I also enjoyed the ambience: a mix of indoor and outdoor dining surrounded by mannequins decorated in condoms and contraceptive pills. After an excellent meal (thanks Alex) our coffee was served with a signature condom! I quickly and politely put this in my bag and completely forgot about it...until my bag was searched at Terminal 5, London Heathrow. I remain eternally grateful for the discretion the lady searching my bag demonstrated !

On a serious note, HIV in Asia is a profound threat to public health. National governments play their part but resources are always an issue. This means that the role of NGOs is crucial in HIV prevention efforts. Cabbages and Condoms isan excellent example of how a community based organisation can make a sustained impact on reducing HIV and ensuring that many lives are not tragically cut short.To do this and also serve remarkable Thai food is, in my view, an achievement unmatched globally.

No comments:

Post a Comment