Background: Thailand has achieved global acclaim for its response to HIV/AIDS. However, the success of some of the country's most well-known initiatives was by no means a foregone conclusion. Policy entrepreneurs on the periphery of power had to achieve buy-in from stakeholders in state and society to scale and mainstream their ideas. This paper offers a comparative and historical understanding the process by which three of the country's most well-known initiatives came into being: a civil society campaign to promote condom usage; a Ministry of Public Health program that aimed to prevent the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) by targeting high-risk populations (the 100% condom program); and a universal Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission (PMTCT) program.
Methods: The research relied on existing literature and interviews with high-ranking ministerial officials, representatives from international and non-governmental organizations, professors, and philanthropic organizations, in addition to a review of the existing literature. Taking a comparative and historical approach that is common within political science and sociology, we analysed the in-depth qualitative interviews in relation to the literatures and used an inductive cross-case analysis aimed to draw out critical features that the initiatives shared in common.
Results: Common factors in HIV/AIDS prevention that cut across the three key cases include policy entrepreneurs who championed the programs, successful demonstration projects that produced a credible evidence base for policy adoption, and a diverse set of institutional partners that played critical roles in helping to mainstream their initiatives into national HIV/AIDS policy and scale programs nationally. The findings from this comparative research project have implications not only for the building of understanding related to one single project, but for broader theoretical understanding related to the mainstreaming of health policy from peripheral spaces of power.
Conclusions: This analysis draws out the role that demonstration projects played in building a credible evidence base for policy adoption and the role that a diverse set of institutional partners played in elevating the profile of policy entrepreneurs' ideas and helping to scale them nationally as state policy. Success was contingent on entrepreneurs first identifying and then taking advantage of different political opportunities that arose during each of the historical periods. Over time, these initiatives have evolved from vertical programs into an integrated program, in parallel with the evolution of the HIV/AIDS landscape at the global level.
Keywords: Demonstration project; Evidence; HIV prevention; HIV/AIDS; Implementation; Intervention; Policy entrepreneur; Political opportunity; Qualitative; Thailand.
© 2022. The Author(s).