Author: M. G.
Mechai Viravaidya was born in Thailand in 1941 from a mixed couple with a Scottish mother and a Thai father. They were doctors and this surely had a big influence on Mechai, since in Thailand he's now famous as the ‘King of Condoms'. Viravaidya is a politician and activist who started promoting condom use and family planning in the mid 60's with great success - from that time the average number of children per family decreased from 7 to 1.5. He also founded an organization to improve the life conditions in Thailand's rural areas: the Population and Community Development Association (PDA).
Why this success? He contrasted prejudice around condoms and other problematic social issues in a creative way, even before the AIDS era: he held condom blowing contests in schools, encouraged cab drivers to hand customers condoms and he even opened a restaurant where customers are given free condoms after their meal instead of mints or cookies. At ‘Cabbages and Condoms', poor women can also ask for pregnancy terminations. This can sound crazy, but these kinds of clinics are not common in the country becasue of the illegal perception this practice has in common opinion. This restaurant is an example of how creativity can deal successfully with real life problems and we think that Viravaidya is a real genius.
When the AIDS epidemic reached Thailand - during the early 90's - Viravaidya was senator in the Thai government and from this moment on he started focusing on HIV/AIDS awareness and safe sex. Again, creativity and fun became essential parts of the campaigns and Viravaidya received important international awards and recognitions for his work - also from the UN and Time Magazine. Here you can watch a video on the 'TED Talks' website, about how Mr. Condom made Thailand a better place. Enjoy and be inspired!