Knowledge and meaning: The AIDS education campaign in rural Northeast Thailand

Chris Lyttleton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Nearly 80% of Thailand's population live in the rural sector. To date, these villages have been subject to top-down dissemination of HIV/AIDS education information via the mass media and bureaucratic networks. This report details an ethnographic enquiry into the impact education campaigns are having in one village in Northeast Thailand. It is found that AIDS information is primarily integrated with local conceptions of sexual behaviour and commercial sex. By the early 1990s, heterosexual behaviour is a major mode of HIV transmission in Thailand. Local and international media discourse focuses on the commercial sex industry in describing the spread of the virus. However, the lack of detailed research of sexual practices in Thailand makes accurate projections of HIV transmission difficult and allows unsubstantiated claims to be made concerning typical Thai sexual behaviour. This paper explores the local context in which these practices are found and discusses the meanings villages attached to HIV/AIDS information. Knowledge levels and behaviour change are assessed and it is argued that community based imperatives are essential for effective future campaigning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-146
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • commercial sex
  • rural NE Thailand
  • sexual behaviour
  • social context


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