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Groundbreaking Thai Health Program Receives 2007 Gates Award for Global Health

Population and Community Development Association honored for innovative family planning and HIV prevention programs

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Population and Community Development Association
Phone: +662.229.4611.28

SEATTLE -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that the Population and Community Development Association (PDA) of Thailand has won the 2007 Gates Award for Global Health, in recognition of its pioneering work in family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention.

The $1 million Gates Award—the world’s largest prize for international health—honors extraordinary efforts to improve health in developing countries. PDA was selected from more than 90 nominees by a jury of international health leaders. Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program, will present the award to Mechai Viravaidya, founder and chairman of PDA, at the Global Health Council’s 34th Annual International Conference on Global Health in Washington, DC, on May 31.

“The Population and Community Development Association has given millions of Thais the opportunity to live healthier lives, and has shown the world that effective HIV prevention and family planning are possible in even the poorest communities,” said Dr. Yamada. “For more than three decades, PDA and Mechai Viravaidya have been at the forefront of innovation in international public health.”

Founded in 1974 to provide family planning education to women in rural Thailand, PDA is now the country’s largest non-profit organization. Its full-time staff of 600, along with more than 12,000 volunteers, has reached more than 10 million Thais in nearly 18,000 villages and poor urban communities.

PDA’s HIV prevention and family planning programs are renowned in the global public health field, and have provided models for other countries to follow. PDA and Viravaidya played a pivotal role in establishing Thailand’s national HIV prevention campaign in 1991, which led to a dramatic decline in new HIV infections. PDA has trained nearly 3,000 health workers from 50 countries in HIV prevention, family planning, adolescent reproductive health, and other health issues.

“When we began our work in 1974, we couldn’t have imagined a health crisis on the scale of HIV/AIDS,” said Viravaidya. “I was thrilled to see PDA’s staff and volunteers rise to the challenge of the epidemic, and I am deeply honored to accept this award on their behalf.”

PDA’s achievements to date include:

  • Working with the Thai government to establish a national HIV prevention program, leading to an 87% reduction in new HIV infections

  • Developing innovative commercial ventures such as “Cabbages and Condoms” restaurants and “Birds and Bees” resorts to fund community health and development projects

  • 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

“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. “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.”

About the Gates Award for Global Health
The Gates Award for Global Health was established by Bill and Melinda Gates in 2000 to recognize exemplary work in international health. The Global Health Council coordinates the selection process for and presentation of the Gates Award.

“Bill and Melinda established this award to shine a spotlight on the unsung heroes of global health,” said Dr. Yamada. “The extraordinary achievements of PDA and previous winners teach us that perseverance, innovation, and inspired leadership can overcome even the most daunting health challenges.”

Previous recipients of the Gates Award include the Carter Center, for its pioneering work to fight neglected diseases (2006); the African Medical and Research Foundation, for improving health in some of Africa’s poorest communities (2005); the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, for community-based health programs (2004); the Brazilian National AIDS Program, for its integrated approach to HIV prevention and treatment (2003); the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, for contributions to polio eradication (2002); and the ICDDR,B Center for Health and Population Research, for the discovery of a diarrhea therapy that has saved millions of lives (2001).

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