Stigma, Lack of Education, Low Condom Use in Japan Contributing to Increasing Number of HIV Cases
The increasing number of new HIV cases in Japan -- due in part to the "dangerous mixture of chronic underreporting of cases, a sexually freewheeling youth culture that's less inclined to use condoms or other protection and the powerful social stigma of a sexually transmitted disease" -- has "confounded and alarmed" the health care industry in the country, the AP/Guardian reports. According to UNAIDS, 1,165 new HIV cases were reported in Japan in 2004, up 14% from 2003. A Japan Center for International Exchange report released last year estimates that the total number of HIV/AIDS cases is doubling every four years and that number could reach 50,000 by 2010. The country established one of the world's top HIV/AIDS treatment programs and promoted widespread condom use in the 1990s when a contaminated blood scandal caused about 2,000 people, mostly hemophiliacs, to contract HIV. However, the scandal also caused many Japanese to be complacent or have misconceptions about the disease, according to the AP/Guardian. "The average person just doesn't seem to be able to grasp the immediacy of the threat," Tokyo health official Shizuko Tominaga said, adding, "AIDS is perceived as someone else's problem." Many HIV-positive people also are unaware about the availability of antiretroviral drugs and "suffer in silence rather than seek help," according to the AP/Guardian. The Japanese government estimates that 10,070 HIV-positive people live in the country of 127 million, but some HIV/AIDS experts say the number could be two to four times the official toll (Obiko Pearson, AP/Guardian, 6/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.