In recognition of its pioneering work in family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention, the Population and Community Development Association of Thailand has been named the winner of the 2007 Gates Award for Global Health.
The $1 million prize — the world's largest international health prize — honors extraordinary efforts to improve health in developing countries. This year's recipient was founded in 1974 to provide family planning education to women in rural Thailand and has become the country's largest nonprofit organization. With a full-time staff of six hundred and more than twelve thousand volunteers, PDA has reached more than ten million Thais in nearly eighteen thousand villages and poor urban communities. "PDA...has shown the world that effective HIV prevention and family planning are possible in even the poorest communities," said Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Health program.
The nonprofit's achievements include introducing community-based family planning programs that have helped to reduce annual population growth in Thailand by more than two-thirds since the mid-1970s; working with the Thai government to establish a national HIV prevention program, which has led to an 87 percent reduction in new HIV infections; and developing innovative commercial ventures such as "Cabbages and Condoms" restaurants and "Birds and Bees" resorts to fund community health and development projects.
"[PDA founder and chairman] Mechai Viravaidya is widely known as Thailand's 'Condom King,' a testament to his extraordinary popularity, as well as his personal leadership in family planning and HIV prevention," said Dr. Nils Daulaire, president and CEO of the Global Health Council in Washington, D.C. "The world needs more leaders like Mechai, who are willing to tackle taboo subjects like sex and HIV/AIDS directly in order to save lives."