Authorities in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City have issued a directive to all hotels: To the other perks offered to your guests, add free condoms. It’s an expansion from a previous recommendation limited to hotels in certain districts, and although the government won’t be providing the condoms, the directive reassures hotel owners who were concerned about violating anti-prostitution laws. By its pragmatism, it also illustrates the failure of more repressive measures attempted by authorities in the past.
What’s the Big Idea?
Vietnam’s conservative, family-focused culture forces people to look for creative ways to have illicit sex in private. Hotels are a popular destination, which is why they are receiving the government’s attention. Lack of education is a problem: According to studies, “just 42 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds…understand the risks of H.I.V., [and] 16 percent of young people think condoms are only for prostitutes.” The public health numbers aren’t great either: “40 percent of Vietnamese men have had sex with prostitutes, and…20 percent of prostitutes in Hanoi and 16 percent in Ho Chi Minh City have H.I.V.”