A deputy Bangkok governor Thaweesak Lertprapan came under fire from AIDS charities and LGBT activists last week after he suggested HIV infections in young men were rising because they were imitating gay television characters.
Thaweesak made the unsupported comments on Tuesday at a government conference on AIDS protection and treatment at City Hall as he was discussing infections among men under 25 years of age.
“The risk to HIV is increasing among gay men more than other groups because of men imitating behaviour from TV soap operas and social media. This has made being gay fashionable and hastened the coming-out process among youths,” he said at the event.
HIV infections in under 25s has been falling for the last decade, according to UNAIDS.
Thaweesak reiterated his comments in an interview with local media on Thursday.
“You see, gay characters shown on TV and in the media hasten the youth’s coming-out process,” he said. “Their behavior is viewed as fashionable and influences the youths to imitate it.”
His remarks prompted condemnation from LGBT groups in Thailand.
“I’d recommend the deputy governor study this more before making assumptions,” researcher-activist Paisarn Likhitpreechakul wrote in a message according to Khaosod daily. “This kind of negative mentality is what makes the risk of contracting HIV high.”
“I don’t agree with him. I think it’s an opinion which doesn’t have any supporting study or research to support” Thaweesak’s characterization of gay men’s sexual behavior, Nimit Tienudom, director of the AIDS Access Foundation, said.