Health officials in Bhutan are making condoms available at all monastic schools as a means to minimize the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV among young monks.
“We are making condoms freely available everywhere, even in monastic schools and colleges,” health minister, Zangley Drukpa, said. According to him the ministry has formed a special action group to deal with STDs in monasteries.
Warning signs of risky behavior among monks first appeared in 2009, when a report on risks and vulnerabilities of adolescents revealed that monks were engaging in “thigh sex” (in which a man uses another man’s clenched thighs for intercourse), according to the state-owned Kuensel daily.
The health ministry got concerned when a dozen monks — including a 12-year-old — were diagnosed with sexual transmitted diseases a year later, Kuensel reports. At least five monks are known to be HIV-positive, the youngest being 19.
Bhutan’s Commission for the Monastic Affairs says stricter discipline is a solution. While corporal punishment is banned, monks told Kuensel it is still practiced.
The 2012 report of the U.N. agency focused on AIDS response and progress also noted cases of HIV among Bhutan’s monks.