Mechai Viravaidya, politician and founder of the Population and Community Development Association in Thailand, discusses his innovative techniques for promoting birth control in the face of overpopulation and the AIDS epidemic.
He also talks about his efforts to build economies in rural villages in order to promote health and education.
Mechai Viravaidya, popularly known as "Mr. Condom" in his native Thailand, was recently awarded the 2007 Gates Award for Global Health on behalf of The Population and Community Development Association (PDA), the organization he founded in 1974.
For over 30 years, PDA has helped improve lives and strengthen communities in Thailand through HIV prevention and family planning programs that have become international models. A health economist by training, Viravaidya is best known for his use of humor and unorthodox methods in focusing the public's attention on public health.
The programs developed by Viravaidya and PDA led to a dramatic reduction in new HIV infections in Thailand, from 143,000 in 1991 to 21,000 in 2003. Using a nationwide network of village-based volunteers, PDA empowers women to plan their pregnancies, giving both mothers and children the opportunity to live healthier lives.
PDA's comprehensive approach to poverty reduction also addresses income generation, water resource development, sanitation projects, environmental conservation, and promotion of gender equality and democracy.
Today, PDA's 600 employees and more than 12,000 volunteers work in 18 regional development centers and branch offices throughout Thailand. Through its international training program, PDA has trained 2,900 people from 50 countries in innovative approaches to HIV prevention, family planning, adolescent reproductive health and other issues.