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AIDS in Japan: Blame it on gays?

Since the first case of AIDS in Japan was officially reported in March, 1985, official figures have indicated that the number of cases of HIV/AIDS among Japanese has been steadily increasing over the years (this despite the difficulty of making assessments due to the low rate of HIV testing among the general population). The Japanese government has been dealing with the problem of AIDS through various campaigns and activities, the results of which, judging by their own figures, have not shown much success.

In fact, the latest results show that Japan is well behind other developed nations in combating the spread of HIV. On May 22, the AIDS Surveillance Committee of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced that the number of people diagnosed with HIV, combined with the number who developed AIDS in 2006, altogether hit a record high. According to the survey, 1358 new cases of HIV/AIDS were reported (952 people were diagnosed with HIV, while 406 people developed AIDS), adding up to a cumulative total of 12,394 cases reported since data started being collected (see links to reports in English and Japanese). Men reportedly represented more than four out of every five new cases of AIDS, and in a significant majority of cases, the patients were homosexual.

Puppet Muppets about AIDS

Government-sponsored ad promoting AIDS testing performed by the popular comedian Puppet Muppet

Although this announcement was only briefly covered by the mainstream media, many bloggers linked to or cited the news and added many comments. Among many entries about the recent release of the statistics, blogger Ishimaru provides an example of comments that blame gays for the spread of the disease in Japan:

まあ、迷惑な話ですな。

ここまできたら、ホモには税金をかけてもいいと思うのですが。
個人の嗜好として男が好きというのは別にかまいませんが、妙な病気を流行らして、医療費を圧迫するのは勘弁願いたいと思います。

Well, what a nuisance.
I think we should start taxing fags.
I don't really have any problem with the personal preference of one man liking another man, but I don't want these men to put pressure on medical costs by spreading a weird disease.

Another blogger shares a similar view.

これはちょっと深刻な状況ですね。エイズは「死なずに済む」病気にはなったけれど、単に治るわけではないし、投薬も副作用があって、結構きついらしいし。
今時、ゲイの間で流行っているのは、ひょっとしてゲイ・コミュニティに末法思想のようなものでも蔓延しているのか、と勘ぐりたくもなる。
単純に医療コストを上げてしまうわけで、回避できるものは回避して欲しいですよね。

The situation is very serious. AIDS has become a disease “from which you do not necessarily die”. However, it is not curable, and the medications can cause side effects which I hear can be very rough. When I think about the fact that, in this day and age, this disease is going around among gays, I cannot help feeling suspicious that the “world is coming to an end” line of thinking is widespread within the gay community. This only causes medical costs to increase, and I want them to avoid what they can avoid.

On the other hand, Upappi, a gay blogger, expresses his concern about the discussions on blog sites:

一方,僕らゲイにとって気になるのが「男性の同性との性的接触による感染が増加」という文言.
Yahoo!ニュースの関連ブログやmixiの記事引用日記などでも盛んに取り上げられており,ノンケ(と思われる方々)のHIVに対する知識のなさと「何でそんなに男がいいのかね?」に代表されるゲイという存在への無理解には苦笑させられますが,この文言は「印象操作」しだいではゲイバッシングにつながりかねませんし,HIV感染に対し誤った知識を植え付けることにもなりかねません.

On the other hand, what concerns us gays is the phrase that goes: “contraction through sexual contact among male homosexuals is increasing”.
Blogs associated with Yahoo! news and diaries on mixi that refer to the news articles are talking extensively about this. The lack of knowledge about AIDS of straight people (or so they seem to be), and their ignorance about gays — summed up in expressions like: “Why do they like men so much?” — it all makes me laugh. However, this phrase could lead to gay bashing, and it could possibly introduce false ideas about the way HIV is contracted, if they use it for “impression management”.

Finally, an HIV positive blogger provides yet another perspective on the issue:

厚生労働省のエイズ動向委員会の発表は統計として一部は意味のあるものだろう
けれど、数字だけでHIV対策を計るとしたら大きな誤りだと思う。

Although the announcement made by the AIDS Surveillance Committee of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare might be meaningful in part as a set of statistical figures, I think it's a big mistake to take measures against HIV based solely on numbers.

セックスの時にはコンドームをすれば予防できるなんて、簡単に考えられていては
どうにもならない。HIVが服薬によって簡単にコントロールできるなどと思っていては
どうにもならない。HIVは予防しにくいものだし、服薬によるコントロールは決して楽
ではなく不便で辛いものだ。

Taking things lightly and thinking that [AIDS] can be prevented by wearing a condom when having sex — this will not do anything. Thinking that medications can easily control HIV will not do anything. HIV is hard to prevent. Controlling the disease by taking medication is not easy; it is very inconvenient and tough.

日本のHIV/エイズ対策は未熟でお粗末なものだと思う。
これから先、日本の中でエイズ/HIVに対して、どのようにすれば本当の意味で知識
が普及して偏見をなくせるのか。それを考えて実施していくことが新たなHIVの予防
や意味のある統計へつながっていくのだろうと思う。

I think that the measures taken to fight HIV/AIDS in Japan are immature and pathetic.
In the future, how, in a real sense, can we spread knowledge about, and eliminate discrimination against, HIV/AIDS? I believe that taking this into account in action can lead to new ways to prevent HIV and make statistics meaningful.

2 comments

  • Stippy

    The link to the stippy.com site in your text “due to the low rate of HIV testing” above is broken. You need to delete the br tag from it. Just fyi.

  • This is definitely a dangerous (and silly) reaction to an increase in HIV/AIDS in Japan. I’m in America (New York City) and this is exactly how everyone reacted here at first. Hasn’t the rest of the world learned anything from our idiocy? You don’t just contract this disease from gays, you contract it from sex, plain and simple. Everyone is sleeping with everyone anyway, at all ages, so if you want to be safe, you need to practice safe sex and you need a message that will appeal to as many people as possible–and for God’s sake, don’t offend the people you’re hoping to reach!

    Thanks for listing,

    Marj Kleinman
    Brooklyn, NY

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