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Social Entrepreneurs

Mechai Viravaidya: The Condom King from Thailand

Mechai Viravaidya is famous in Thailand, a national hero in the war against AIDS. He's led one of the world's most successful campaigns against HIV infection.

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Thanks to his work, the rate of new infections in Thailand has dropped by 90 percent. He has brought condoms to villagers in the most remote provinces and launched public information campaigns, thus making protection with prophylactics popular. In particular, his media-friendly events - such as condom-inflating competitions - have made him famous throughout the country. So much so, that when Thais go to buy condoms, they ask for "Mechais".

Mechai Viravaidya, who is of both Thai and Scottish descent, has been involved in politics nearly his entire life, as both a senator and a minister. Nowadays, the 66-year-old is concentrating solely on his independent organisation Population and Community Development Association (PDA), which supports family planning and health initiatives in the country's poorer regions. PDA is one of Thailand's largest and most successful non-governmental organisations. The Schwab Foundation named Mechai Viravaidya one of its Social Entrepreneurs in recognition of his commitment.

High-profile campaigns continue to be Viravaidya's trademark. In Pattaya, he's opened a restaurant named Cabbages and Condoms, which is decorated with flowers, teddy bears and lampshades all made from condoms. Michael Altenhenne visited him there.

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