Friday, 25 April 2008

'Dr Love': Promoting sex education in an innovative way

Profile feature on "Dr Love" and the launch of a new sex education program in Indonesia

Originally published in The Jakarta Post, 05/08/07

http://old.thejakartapost.com/yesterdaydetail.asp?fileid=20070805.C01

There's a new airline in Indonesia. But this is not yet another budget carrier: This is Love Airways, a multimedia sex education program, brainchild of Dr Wei Siang Yu, better known as "Dr Love".
The flamboyant, 37-year-old medical doctor is a familiar figure in his native Singapore, where he has started a sex education hotline, fronted a popular late-night adult "edu-tainment" TV show, and launched a website, radio program and magazine.
His unique combination of snappy dress sense, kitsch gimmicks and media savvy has been a huge success in his home country.
Dr Love is the youngest of six children. When he graduated from medical school in Australia he was just plain Dr Wei, but his unbridled enthusiasm and quirky ideas ensured he did not stay that way for long.
In 2001 Meggpower, his "bio-communication" company, launched a hormone-monitoring service that alerts would-be mothers by cell phone text message (SMS) when they are ovulating, and Dr Love stepped into the spotlight.
In 2002 he created an innovative "wireless sex education platform" in Amsterdam for the Dutch Health Promotion board, a question-and-answer hotline on sex-related topics, using the medium of the SMS.
The system was a success, allowing bashful youngsters to ask awkward questions anonymously without having to face parents, teachers or medical professionals. The hotline was soon up and running in Singapore too.
Dr Love, a self-styled "sexpert" in oversized black spectacles, has become the public face of everything sex-related in Singapore. The hotline was followed by a high-profile sex education radio program, Sex in the Air and Dr Love has been the key figure in the Singaporean authorities' campaign to raise the island state's worryingly low birth rate.
In 2003, his "Love Boat" set sail, a cruise to a luxury resort staffed by sex counselors for Singaporean couples wanting to have a baby. Dr Love regularly holds fertility seminars, and in 2005 he launched the Love Airways television show,
The Love Airways network keeps expanding. There is a website at www.loveairways.com, and in 2006 a Love Airways magazine hit newsstands. The magazine, in unmistakable kitschy, teen-mag, Dr Love style, is full of medical advice, lifestyle stories and tips -- all decidedly risqu‚ for up-tight Singapore.
And then there is Dr Love's much-discussed reality TV concept, Dr Love's Super Baby Making Show, which would see 10 couples competing under Dr Love's guidance to conceive a child in the fastest possible time. There are plans for the show to launch in the United States.
*****
And now it's Indonesia's turn. In collaboration with Fiesta Condoms, Dr Love has launched a wireless sex education network here too.
Confused and curious Indonesians can send their queries -- and Dr Love is at pains to emphasize that no question is too outrageous -- by SMS to +65-94DRLOVE (+65-94375683).
The questions will be answered by a panel of experienced Indonesian doctors, and will be used to compile a database of frequently asked questions that will power "Nova", yet another Dr Love innovation.
Nova -- in the form of a glamorous computer-generated woman -- will be Indonesia's first automated "sex education avatar".
At the moment she is awaiting takeoff on the Love Airways website, but once the database is complete she will use artificial intelligence to answer sex questions from young and old alike.
Sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy are serious issues in Indonesia; Dr Love believes that there is a lack of decent sex education available here.
He hopes that Nova and the hotline will provide a much-needed service.
Dr Love is aware of the sensitivities surrounding the subject of sex in Indonesia, but he is keen to insist that his projects have nothing to do with pornography or imposing Western values on the country.
"We are answering the questions people want to ask," he says. "This is sex education for Indonesians by Indonesians ... it's not about putting foreign ideas into Indonesia."
Dr Love certainly has no qualms about bringing his message to conservative countries -- which he believes are often those that need it most.
Next stop for Love Airways is notoriously prudish India, a country where a public kiss can lead to prosecution, as Richard Gere recently found out.
But Dr Love has no hesitations. He has bigger plans for Indonesia too: An Indonesian edition of the Love Airways magazine is planned to launch later this year, and he hopes that Nova will become a national celebrity.
"I want to see Nova on television, in magazines, on the radio," he enthuses, "this is just the start."
Dr Love himself remains unmarried and childless.

© Tim Hannigan 2007

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