Asia's Most Influential: Mechai Viravaidya, Founder of The Population And Community Development Association
As Bill Gates once said, “I’ve never met anyone who knows how to have as much fun with condoms (in public, anyway) as Mechai Viravaidya.”
Viravaidya is known throughout Thailand and beyond as “Mr Condom”, having organised the nation’s successful HIV and Aids prevention programme, in addition to his numerous ventures in non-governmental organisations dedicated to eradicating poverty and improving access to education for rural schoolchildren. In 1974, in response to challenges brought on by a rapidly growing population, he established the PDA to initiate family planning services that contributed to a dramatic reduction of population growth, from more than 3.3 per cent in 1974, with an average of seven children per family, to 0.6 per cent in 2005.
His ability to gain acceptance for contraceptives comes from his sense of humour—sprinkling holy water on condoms to suggest they are blessed, or fashioning them into bouquets and even toys. Children are encouraged to participate in condom relay races, or condom blowing competitions, all to help eliminate any stigma.