21st July 18:19
Japan: AIDS time bomb (condoms)
Japan's Aids time bomb
BBC News - Tuesday, 13 July, 2004
Jonathan Head, BBC correspondent in Tokyo
The focus of most of the delegates to the International Aids
Conference in Bangkok is on the enormous problems posed by the
disease to developing countries.
But it is not just the poor who are unprepared to deal with Aids.
In Japan, one of the world's wealthiest societies, awareness of
the risks posed by the disease is almost non-existent among many
young people, and yet their ***ual behaviour is increasingly
While HIV infection rates in Japan remain officially low at
around 6,000, experts fear the real total could be higher, and
will get a lot worse unless attitudes begin to change to a
disease many Japanese believe only foreigners can catch.
One Friday a month, gynaecologist Dr Tsuneo Akaeda visits Club
Jamaica, one of dozens of places in Tokyo where young Japanese
party till sunrise. He gives free blood tests for HIV - with
almost immediate results.
University student Kuki Uchikawa, who has taken the test, said:
"It's always been somewhere in the back of my mind, HIV, but I'm
afraid I've never done much to protect myself in the past. This
is the first time I've decided to come and find out more about
Among the volunteers helping Dr Akaeda is Mariko - she is 18, and
has only just become aware of the risk HIV poses to her
"We never had much *** education at school. We were taught little
about contraception, or how you catch HIV or other diseases.
Teachers just don't feel comfortable talking about ***," she
Her friend, Madoka Izumi, also a high school student, agreed.
"I go to a girl's school, and we've never been able to learn what
boys think about ***. They've taught us some of the physical
sides of ***, but none of the emotional aspects, so we're not
really prepared to deal with it," she said.
Yusuke Izumi, a university student, said: "I don't remember
getting any *** education at school - we just talked about it
among ourselves, about the things we did with girls."
Adults are probably oblivious about ****agers' ***ual activity,
"Parents always think their children are different. They can't
imagine them having *** or having abortions. They can only think
of them studying hard at school."
By the age of 17, more than a third of ****agers in Japan have
already had *** at least once.
There are other statistics which Dr Akaeda finds even more
alarming. ***ually-transmitted diseases are rising rapidly among
young women - a sure sign of having *** with multiple partners
but without using condoms.
"****agers these days are very casual about ***. They're happy to
have *** with anyone they meet - they use phrases like 'let's
"I gave away vouchers for free STD tests to girls, and found that
82% them were infected.
"It's incredible. I suspect a lot of them may have HIV as well."
In Japan, *** has become a freely-traded commodity, seemingly
unconstrained by moral concerns.
Dozens of ****ographic cable TV channels on sale here, and yet
sales of condoms have been falling for several years.
"We're very concerned about the negative image of condoms among
young people, because it's not just HIV, but other
***ually-transmitted diseases which are spreading," said Toshiaki
Ishii, of the Okamoto Condom Co Ltd.
"We're trying to find ways to make them more appealing, but so
far without success. I think the lack of *** education is partly
to blame for this," he said.
The absolute number of people infected with HIV in Japan is still
quite small - but unlike other developed countries, every year
that number keeps rising.
And yet there is still a marked reluctance here to discuss the
problem openly, or to run the kind of hard-hitting awareness
campaigns that would wake this country up to the danger it faces.
That reluctance prevails even in the corridors of Tokyo's city
government. Ida Mami, of the Medical Service's Division, is
sounding the alarm over Aids awareness, but said getting more
******** *** education in schools is not easy.
"It is a sensitive issue. We have to start with what's possible,
and avoid provoking a reaction from conservatives. If we push too
hard on discussing condoms and safe *** in classrooms, some
people may demand we stop all HIV education," she explained.
A start of sorts has been made in one of Tokyo's most elite
girls' schools. They invited Dr Akaeda to educate, not the
pupils, but their mothers - though only a handful turned up.
His use of graphic illustrations and even more graphic statistics
had its intended effect - to shake any illusions they may have
that their daughters are somehow immune to the wave of adolescent
promiscuity sweeping Japan.
Actually talking about *** to their children, though, is another
"Well it's rather difficult to bring this subject up in a casual
way. If I can find the right opportunity, I hope I will feel able
to discuss it," said one mother.
"I think this is a subject our children are already interested
in, so I guess they'll understand if we raise it with them,"
Young people often seem like Japan's golden generation,
unburdened by the work ethic of their parents, enjoying more
leisure, more affluence, more security.
In such a cosseted environment it is hard to imagine the spectre
of Aids. But it is here, and they don't seem to realise.
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