Thailand has launched a campaign ahead of Valentine’s Day urging teenagers not to be ashamed to carry condoms.
The tone appears to have shifted from previous campaigns, where teenagers were encouraged to visit temples and go home after dates instead of having sex.
Thailand has one of the world’s highest teen pregnancy rates and rising numbers of sexually transmitted infections.
The campaign, slated to run until 2019, coincides with recent measures aimed at addressing teen pregnancies.
Authorities have encouraged condom use in previous years alongside the promotion of abstinence.
But this year they said they would focus on reducing social stigma on using condoms, as well as increasing access and improving the quality of condoms available.
Thai health ministry spokesman Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong said on Thursday: “Teenagers, especially, do not have to be embarrassed about buying condoms.”
“Society also has to accept that teenage girls buy condoms, which is better than more teenage girls getting pregnant,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
Thailand still remains a conservative society, but has been struggling with high adolescent pregnancy rates in recent years.
More than 50 out of every 1,000 Thai girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year.
A survey last year of Thais aged 15 and older found that nearly half of them were too shy to buy condoms, reported the Bangkok Post.
The paper also said the number of sexually transmitted infections had doubled over the last decade, with a five-fold increase in 10 to 19-year-olds. About 450,000 people in Thailand are HIV positive.
The government recently passed a bill focussing on better sex education and easier access to condoms for teenagers, as well as providing better assistance to young mothers.
Previous campaigns have seen officials urging teenagers to visit Buddhist temples instead of having pre-marital sex on Valentine’s Day. In 2014, the day coincided with Macha Bucha, considered a holy day in Buddhism.
The culture ministry also launched a “Just a Meal for Valentine’s Day” campaign encourage teenagers to go home separately after a dinner date, though the authorities still handed out free condoms.