Health: Back on the AIDS Alert

Once a model in the war against HIV, Thailand dropped its guard. Now the country's at risk again

For years, international health experts have pointed to Thailand as a rare success story in the global battle to contain the AIDS epidemic. The situation looked grim for the country in the 1980s, when doctors reported that sex workers in Bangkok's famous red-light district were beginning to test HIV-positive. There were dire predictions that the virus would spread rapidly through the population, infecting as many as 4 million of the country's 65 million people by 2000.

It didn't happen. Instead, the Thai government launched a comprehensive education and prevention campaign. Brothels started using condoms. Public-service messages were broadcast on radio...

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