Japan Documents Record High Numbers of New HIV, AIDS Cases; Health Ministry To Revise HIV Prevention Guidelines
Japan in 2004 recorded 748 new HIV cases and 366 new AIDS cases -- the highest annual totals ever documented in the country -- indicating that the country's HIV/AIDS epidemic is becoming more widespread, according to a preliminary report released on Wednesday by a panel of Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Kyodo News/Yahoo! Asia News reports. The country, which began tracking HIV/AIDS data in 1984, recorded 640 new HIV cases and 336 new AIDS diagnoses in 2003 (Kyodo News/Yahoo! Asia News, 1/26). Of 748 new HIV cases in 2004, 669 are men and 79 are women, and about 70% of HIV-positive men in the country are believed to have contracted the virus from sex with other men, according to Japan's Daily Yomiuri (Daily Yomiuri, 1/27). According to official statistics, Japan currently has 6,528 HIV-positive people, 3,258 of whom have been diagnosed with AIDS, but health ministry official Masanori Suzuki said the government estimates that the actual number of HIV-positive people likely is closer to 14,000, Agence France-Presse reports (Agence France-Presse, 1/27). "It's not easy to prevent the spread of HIV as sexually transmitted infections are likely to spread through unseen routes," Hiroshi Yoshikura, chair of the Health, Labor and Welfare panel, said, adding, "We need to find infected people and start treating them as soon as possible by promoting the use of a quick test that immediately shows the result" (Daily Yomiuri, 1/27).
Health Ministry Reaction
Although the Japanese government provides anonymous HIV testing at no cost at public health centers throughout the country, Suzuki said, "We must launch more aggressive and vigorous campaigns to make people aware of AIDS issues" (Agence France-Presse, 1/27). The health ministry announced that it will "boost" prevention efforts by revising its guidelines for HIV/AIDS prevention for the first time since 1999, according to Kyodo News/Yahoo! Asia News. The ministry said it is setting up a panel of experts to "examine recent trends" in the epidemic, including the "rise" in infections among young males, young couples and people living in urban areas, and recommend "effective measures" for the revised guidelines by March 31, Kyodo News/Yahoo! Asia News reports (Kyodo News/Yahoo! Asia News, 1/26).