Japan: Worries about spread of HIV and AIDS

By Flickr id: alephnaught.

By Flickr id: alephnaught.

There are some alarming statistics about the spread of HIV and AIDS in Japan. While the rest of the developed world UNAIDS reported that the cases of infection are decreasing, Japan seems to be the only such country [ja] where the number of HIV positives and AIDS infected people is growing. According to the AIDS Trend Committee, 2008 was the year with the highest number of new cases recorded: 432 people were diagnosed with AIDS and 1113 as HIV positive. So far the statistics for 2009 [ja] are no more reassuring: for in June, 249 people were diagnosed HIV+ and 124 with AIDS. Patients are mostly male, homosexual and in their 20s and 30s. Among the causes is often cited the lack of information and need for a campaign to raise awareness of the problem, especially in the gay community. While organizations such as WADS [ja], JFAP [ja] and others seek to raise the level of public awareness especially among the young and young adults to the matter, government policies have not proved to be very effective so far. With the recent general election and the new elected DPJ, there is hope that policies on HIV/AIDS issue will be considered more seriously though none of the competing parties addressed the problem in their manifestos. An anonymous comment on the AIDS & Society Association‘s blog [ja] highlights this point.

今回の総選挙の論戦からエイズ対策は消されてしまったんですね。ああ、そうですか、それが日本の政治の意思ですか、といったやりきれない印象です。世界中でエイズに関する国際会議が開かれ、日本政府も加わったさまざまな宣言や声明が発表されるたびに強調されてきた「政治のリーダーシップ」は、現在の日本国内ではこういう姿で表現されている。これでいいのでしょうか、いや、いいわけがない! ということで、反語的怒りをふつふつと感じつつも、それをぐっと抑え、日本HIV陽性者ネットワークJaNP+、エイズ&ソサエティ研究会議など国内のエイズ関連NGOのネットワーク4団体が各政党に対しエイズ政策に関する公開質問を行っています。

AIDS countermeasures disappeared from the election debate. Mm, so is that the Japanese government’s intention I wonder? Everywhere in the world international conferences about AIDS are held, and what is emphasized is the need for ‘government's leadership’ but though every official announcement or statement by the Japanese government has taken this line, in matters regarding] internal policy, little is done! Is that OK? No, of course it is not and while I ask such rhetorical questions and feel mad about all this, I calm down and say that Japan HIV positives Network JaNP+, AIDS & Society Association and a network of four NPOs working on AIDS issue in the country did officially question each party about their AIDS policies.

(追加) 各党からの回答はJaNP+の公式サイトに掲載されています。

(Note) The answers from the respective parties have been published [ja, pdf] on JaNP+ official website.

Despite the contradiction that sees the country with second largest economy in the world being a tail ender in the fight against AIDS, here as in other parts of the world, HIV positive and AIDS infected people have learnt to express their feelings, anxieties and happy or sad moments of their daily life in online diaries. Ryuta, for example, started his blog a few hours after he was told he was HIV positive, as a way to fight, he says. In this post, he recalls the moment he first knew he was infected.


Last Saturday I took the HIV test at a place near home. Today, I was led into a room, where a doctor standing in front of me told me that I am HIV positive. “Let's check your number together, ok? 295657. It is yours, right?” “Yes, 295657. Correct” “Look at this paper. This value stands for the quantity of virus. Usually it is under 1.0 but in your case it is 105.00” “I see” “This is the test result. It means that you are positive” Hearing that, I check the paper again. It's true, I can see the normal value <1.0 and, next to it the number 105.00. Even looking at it numerous times, from right to left and from left to right, the number remains. However I may look at the printed number, it doesn't change. “Is that so… I understand”



Now, in the room next door, a nurse will explain in detail what you have to do from now on. Do you have any other questions to ask me?” “No, it's ok” “Well, this is a letter of introduction. Please give it to the doctor in the hospital that will take care of you in future” “Thank you very much” “I'll call the nurse then.” A doctor whose face never changed expression, from beginning to end. This is what we call a professional…I don't know why, but silly things like this catch my attention.


I open the door and waiting for me there is a nurse, a tender expression on her face. “Bring your bag and come in please” In a bright and clean-looking room, guidebooks on HIV and related papers are lined up on a corner of the desk. “Have a seat” “Yes, thank you… May I take notes while listening?” “Sure” I take a notebook from my bag and put it on the table. “You look prepared, eh?” says the nurse. “More or less…” I say with a vague smile.



Then I consulted with her and chose the hospital for the future. As I don't have a car I chose a place easy to get to by public transport. Since I have to go there forever, convenience is important. So I ask about the way to make an appointment for the initial medical examination and the name of the doctor and so on. While we are having that conversation the nurse mutters “Did you have any presentiment about this?” I reply after a while. “Presentiment?…Mmm, yes…I had it. I think I had it” When I went out, it was still raining.

Rana, 26 y.o., shares her thoughts over the decision whether to let her friends and family know about her condition.

ぁたしは家族に病気のことは伝ぇてません。可哀想過ぎて、言ぇなぃんです。本当に親不孝な娘だと思ぃます。でも、知らなぃ方がいぃことってぁると思ぅ。とは言っても、一人で抱ぇきれる病気ではなぃので、親しぃ友達には告知してるんです。それは支ぇて欲しぃのもぁるけど、友達に病気のことを身近に感じてほしぃのもぁります。 HIVに感染するまで、友達とそんな話したことなかったから、みんながHIVにつぃて、どぅいぅ風に考ぇてぃるか、仲良ぃのに、全然知りませんでした。だから、伝ぇるのも怖かったです。拒否されてしまったら、どぅしょぅ。。。それでも友達でぃてくれるだろぅか。。。そればかり考ぇてしまったけど、ぁたしのこと拒否した友達は一人もぃませんでした。

I haven't told my family that I am ill. I feel sorry for them, so I can't. I really am a disobedient daughter. I also think that it's better if they don't know. Of course, since this is not an illness that I can bear by myself I told it to my best friends. Because I'd like them to support me and because I'd like them to understand what being positive means. Until I got infected I had never talked with my friends about HIV. Despite them being good friends I had no idea what they thought about HIV. That's why I was afraid of telling them. “What do I do if they reject me?” “Will they be my friends anyway?” I couldn't avoid thinking of that but no one did actually reject me.


It was amazing. I understood then that my friends are true friends. In a way, when such things happen you really know if it's true friendship or not! The first time, when I spoke about HIV there were different reactions. One had already had the test with her partner, another was not aware of the problem, another wanted to go and have the test but was scared …

ぁたしが感染したことで、問題意識持ってくれるよぅになったと思ぅし、ょく体調を心配してくれます(o^ー^o) とはぃぇ、もちろん嫌なこともぁりました。ぁたしが感染してるのを知らなぃ人でしたが、 HIVの話題が出て、『隣にぃるだけ移りそぅじゃん。』と、スゴィ嫌そぅな顔をして言ってきて、ぁたしは感染を知ったばかりだったといぅのもぁったけど、ショック過ぎて何も言ぇませんでした。。世の中にはまだまだそぅいぅ風に考ぇてる人が結構ぃるんでしょうね。そぅいぅ人達の意識改革ができたらまぢで本望ですね☆★

Now they know I am positive they have become more aware of the problem and they worry for my health. I also had bad experiences. There was a guy who didn't know I was positive. Once the subject of ‘HIV’ came up,, with an absolutely disgusted face he said “Even having them next to me I'd feel contaminated!”. I was so shocked that I couldn't say a word. In the world there are probably many people who think that way. My biggest hope is that an awareness revolution happens to those people.

Probably one of the first Japanese bloggers to keep an online diary as an AIDS infected was Eizu, a 23 years old prostitute who, in 2006, could write only a few posts before her condition worsened. A friend of hers kept on updating [ja] Eizu's readers until the end and those words still remain, on the web.

1 comment

  • Bint Med

    Its my prayer that the HIV related Non Governmental Organisations think of an advocacy campaign to get the government rethink about the HIV policy issues. Japan still has chance to arrest the growing prevalence, unfortunately, if no serious consideration is given to prevention now, the country will then spend loads of money to manage the epidemic in the coming future.

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