CDC HIV/STD/TB Prevention News Update, Tuesday, October 31, 2006
JAPAN: "AIDS Awareness Falling by the Wayside"
Japan Times (10.26.06):: Jun Hongo
"Kids must be told repeatedly about how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS," said Chizuko Ikegami, executive director of PLACE Tokyo, a community-based organization supporting HIV/AIDS patients. "But currently there isn't sufficient education or backup from the government."
According to Japan's Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 1,199 new cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in 2005. The number of people testing positive for HIV between March 27 and July 2, 2006, was 248. Both figures constitute a record high for Japan, the only industrialized country where HIV infections are growing steadily.
In Tokyo, 309 of last year's 417 reported cases were contracted through sexual contact. Seventy-two percent of the people testing positive for HIV in Tokyo were in their 20s and 30s. Six percent were under 20, according to the city's Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health.
Ikegami said 10 to 20 new clients contact her office each month to access information on living with HIV/AIDS. Most are in their 20s to 50s, and 90 percent are males.
Ikegami blamed government HIV/AIDS spending cuts as a major reason for the crisis, along with the lack of proper sex education in schools.
Condom makers fear the Japanese have begun to prefer unprotected sex. Toshiaki Ishii, director of the condom manufacturers' association Nihon Condom Kogyokai, said the number of condoms produced in Japan peaked in 1997 at 1.23 billion packs. In 2004, output had dropped to 677 million, a nearly 50 percent decrease.
Yorimasa Nagai of the Japanese Foundation for AIDS Prevention said education is essential to preventing the spread of HIV. Although about 12,000 people in Japan have HIV/AIDS, Nagai said, most people consider it a minor problem because they have not had contact with patients.
"There's no way that HIV/AIDS prevention can be taught without proper sex education and promoting prevention," Nagai said. "Enlightenment through campaigning is important, but adequate education in schools, communities, and workplaces is vital as well."
"Japan Reports Record Number of New HIV Infections in April-June"
Associated Press (08.23.06):: Chisaki Watanabe
Japan's Health Ministry recently announced an increase in new HIV infections that may indicate the infection rate is accelerating. In the three-month period from April to June of this year, 248 cases were diagnosed. This was the largest number since July-September in 2004, when 209 infections were reported, according to ministry official Yasuaki Hashimoto.
A ministry statement did not specify a cause for the increase but said the wider availability of HIV testing might account for the marked increase in infections among middle-aged Japanese.
Japan has 17,000 HIV/AIDS patients, a low number compared to many other countries. According to UNAIDS, Japan's infection rate is 1 in 7,529, far lower than the 1 in 110 rate in Thailand. However, the rate at which HIV has spread in Japan in the past 10 years mirrors that of developing countries. Japanese tend to have low HIV awareness and to view it as a foreign problem. "We are greatly concerned about the trend," said Hashimoto.
According to the ministry's AIDS Surveillance Committee, two-thirds of newly infected patients are in their 20s and 30s, but infections among older people are also increasing. The ratio of those newly infected in their 40s and 50s rose to 31 percent in April-June, up from 22 percent in the previous quarter, said the committee's statement. Hashimoto said the increase could be due to June's weeklong awareness campaigns that featured extended clinic hours so that older people, often in managerial positions, could be tested.
Reported cases of HIV, which have been rising since 2002, hit a record high of 832 cases in 2005. The number of reported AIDS cases decreased in 2005 after a two-year increase. Experts argue that cases in Japan are severely underreported, estimating the number to be two to four times the official toll.