By: Raychel Hamada and Teal Gibo
Most of the population on earth today is uncomfortable discussing condoms, the first line of defense against HIV and unwanted pregnancies worldwide. However, the “Condom King,” Mechai Veravaidya, became such a notorious icon for condom endorsement that even today one may hear condoms being referred to as “mechais” throughout Thailand. He was instrumental in transforming Thai society’s general feelings toward condom use from discomfort to acceptance. Mechai did not halt his achievements after educating Thailand about the use of condoms; to this day he continues to better villages throughout rural Thailand by promoting economic development, youth education, philanthropy, environmental sustainability and more.
Born into a privileged Thai family with abundant opportunities ahead of him, Mechai chose to share his success instead of saving it for his own well-being. He has stated, “I didn’t want to waste my life, my education on just getting all the money I can, eating caviar and drinking red wine just to pass out the next day without making any changes in my surroundings. So, I decided that helping people was something I wanted to do.” (Johnston Interview)
He first set foot in rural Thai villages in the mid 1960’s while overseeing public projects for the Development Evaluation Division. Feeling overwhelmed by the large number of underprivileged children crowding the areas, he performed a study and found that supply production could not keep up with the ever-increasing numbers of children. (Johnston) This situation inspired him to establish his first Non Governmental Organization (NGO)—Populations and Community Development Association (PDA)— develop Thailand’s comprehensive national HIV/AIDS prevention policy and other organizations to aid the efforts of PDA.