What Should I Do? More on AIDS in Japan

Some will remember the grim reaper aids campaigns of the ’80s
Remember the Grim Reaper AIDS campaigns of the ’80s?

Late last year Pink shared with us the eye-opening story of his friend who found out that he had been dating a girl infected with HIV, and the story of his soul search while he waited for his own test results. After reading the number of responses in the comment section to the article, I decided to do a little more work into the state of AIDS and other STDs in Japan.

While most newspaper articles generally do their best to exaggerate the statistics with statements like “AIDS cases in Japan double in the last decade”, the reality is that official AIDS (and HIV) statistics don’t appear that high although part of the reason might be due to the lack of drug use (and syringe sharing) in Japan. I guess it depends on how you define high… there have been approximately 3,750 new cases of HIV and AIDS reported over the past three years (’04-’06). The problem is that this figure alone tells you very little about the real face of AIDS in Japan. According to MHLW (厚生労働省, kouseirodosho) only 93,497 people had AIDS tests last year. Given that 1,304 new cases were found, that means that almost 1.5% of people getting tests are found positive. Isn’t that high?

Let’s put it another way, the sexually active population in Japan is said to be approximately 100 million people. That means that less than one tenth of one percent of the sexually active population are getting tested. Given the amount of sexual activity that goes on outside of the home in Japan, you would hope that the incidence of testing was actually higher than the average country. Some people say that the social pressures of being seen as outcast in Japan might be so great that people don’t have the courage to get a test, just in case they are found positive. My personal view is that such social pressure is (unfortunately) strong regardless of where you live, it is more an issue of lack of sexual education at schools. The fact that a drama series about a girl who got pregnant at the age of 14 was so popular last year is a sign that children are getting sexually active even earlier than they did in our day (My wife assures me that the drama was so popular simply due to the fact that it is no longer unrealistic in today’s society). What does that mean for the sexual safety of our children?

Finally, a word of advice for my fellow gaijin out there. It’s hard enough getting the courage to ask around where to get a check in your own country and your own language, and I can think of a dozen reasons why you might not want to ask your own partner. Here are the names of a couple of places that will give you a free and anonymous AIDS check. Remember, even if your last girlfriend seemed like a well behaved, serious girl, you have no idea what her last boyfriend was like – especially if he was a gaijin – as we all know that it is only gaijin who spread AIDS in Japan. Seriously though, think of the smile on your face if you are one of the 92,193 people who finds out that they are negative. Go get yourself tested, and say goodbye to Mr. Reaper forever. Here is where you can get it done for free:

Tokyo: Minami Shinjuku (南新宿検査相談室)

3F Tokyo Minami Shinjuku Building,
2-7-8, Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.
Tel: 03-3377-0811

* 1/8 of all AIDS tests done in Japan last year were done here.
Map to Minami Shinjyuku, Tokyo, HIV Testing Centre:
Map to Minami Shinjyuku, Tokyo, HIV Testing Centre

Osaka: Ame-mura (アメ村サンサンサイト日曜日常設即日HIV抗体検査)

4F Shinzu Sankaku Tower
1-7-8, Nishi-Shinsaibashi, Chuoku,
Osaka-shi, Osaka-fu
Tel: 06-6253-3339

* Only open on Sundays from 3PM-5PM. English speakers present.
Map to Amemura, Osaka, HIV Testing Centre:
Map to Amemura, Osaka, HIV Testing Centre

Kobe: Sannomiya (神戸市保険所)

Room 13-15, 6F Sannomiya Center Plaza Nishikan
2-11 Sannomiya, Chuoku, Kobeshi, Hyogo-ken

* Open between 6-8PM every Monday night. No appointment necessary. Also tests for chlamydia and syphilis.
Map to Sannomiya, Kobe, HIV Testing Centre:
Map to Sannomiya, Kobe, HIV Testing Centre

Have you had a HIV test? Tell us about it, or any other concerns, worries you may have on the subject of AIDS in Japan in the comments below.

27 thoughts on “What Should I Do? More on AIDS in Japan”

  1. OK, thats it. I am getting tested. After reading your first “HIV in Japan” article, I almost got off my butt and looked up where I could get the test done in Tokyo, but now that you have done it for me, I have no excuse!

  2. Even those that live in the inaka can get tested. I used to live in a pretty small town in SHIMANE of all places but as part of my job I taught the AIDS center people enough English so that they could give AIDS tests to the nearly non-existent English-speaking population

  3. >> According to MHLW (厚生労働省, kouseirodosho) only 93,497 people had AIDS tests last year. Given that 1,304 new cases were found, that means that almost 1.5% of people getting tests are found positive. Isn’t that high?

    I don’t know if it is high by international standards, but it stands to reason that people in high-risk groups are the ones getting tested, so a fairly high number is to be expected. The real worry is that although AIDS awareness is finally improving in Japan, a lot of people practicing unsafe sex don’t see it to be a threat and are not getting tested. I remember talking to someone a few years ago who saw it as only affecting gaijin prostitutes and their clientele. It struck me as being a very similar view to that of the people that saw AIDS to be a “gay disease” back when it first started to come to light (in the “Reaper days”).

  4. Getting tested did wonders for my state of mind. The Shinjuku center was clean, friendly, and reassuringly anonymous.

  5. having recently spent time in South Africa, a place where HIV is a major spreading issue and where a similar effect of shame is brought upon those who are tested positive to HIV, I believe that the origins of the problem are exactly as you describe. Education to those who are young needs to increase dramatically, and a sense of urgency be expressed by those in higher power.

    I couldn’t stress more no matter how little the risk may be for anyone, get tested.
    there’s no bigger reward than knowing that your fine, before you potentially spread it to a loved one. and spread this message to others.

    great article

  6. Yeah, I need to go to the Osaka one to get checked out soon. Its been 3 months since I got back from Bangkok so it should be enough to know if I’m in the clear by now. Uhhh, I hate the feeling though.

  7. Everybody, get tested. Please.

    I had a Japanese boyfriend who told me that back in his crazy Tokyo days, he slept with about 300 women in less than a year. I begged him to get tested, but he refused, because “don’t worry, they were all Japanese!”

    Is this attitude common? I really, really hope not.

  8. Vicki,
    It’s funny that you mention that because I dated a similar guy. I only found out afterwards (from a mutual friend) about some of the things that he’d got up to. Apparently he had a bet with his buddies that he could score 100 girls in the 100 days of Summer. What a dick! (non pun intended). I’m pretty sure that our relationship was something special as he kept on coming back to me, but after hearing that story I really wish that I had never been there – no matter how great the sex was. I got some satisfaction when I heard that apparently his dick got so sore from his little competition, that the last 10 girls or so of that Summer became so painful that it turned him off sex – at least for a while anyway.

  9. I had to get tested this year because I am pregnant and it is mandatory for pregnant women in Japan….that was the most nerve wracking week of my life, there wasnt one day that went by that I didnt cry and wonder if I had ruined my chances at a normal life….thankfully the test came back negative…however I read (while waiting nervously) that the rate of HIV among pregnant women is increasing sharply…

  10. That is Japan’s price has to pay for letting Americans especially Marines roam freely in their country.

  11. Japan is really turning into a sex crazy country. I would say kids in japan have even more sex that kids in america. In the US its still considered taboo for kids to be having sex in high school, but in japan, tv shows of even middle school kids having sex is common. Even so, aids is mostly about drug addicts sharing needles, so that would explain why the aids count is still so low in japan. This goes without saying that Japan really needs to clean up their child porn label.

  12. Shane:
    Apparently the LDP is considering passing a law which would mean that people in possession of child porn will also get fined (albeit a couple of hundred of dollars). A small step maybe but better late than never.

  13. @vicky, mini75: i also had this kind of japanese boyfriend, who told me that he slept with a lot of women. after asking some questions concerning his sexual relationship with them he indirectly told me that he had unprotected sex.he saw it as normal to sleep with them without condom! he was even surprised by my reaction. this also explains why he was so frustrated when i told him that i want him to use a condom before i knew about his past escapades. moreover, he asked me why should he use a condom since i’m on the pill. and i told him that it’s actually only because of disease prevention especially, aids hepatits etc. he just looked at me as if he never heard about these diseases. japanese are really uneducated in that particular topic as they only see condoms as a means for unwanted pregnancies prevention. i was shocked by his careless attitude.

  14. Just a heads-up…

    I went to both the Osaka and Kobe testing centres, only to find empty rooms and no needles.
    I was there at exactly the right times, dates and lcoations, but both seem to have moved, or just closed down due to of lack of interest. Who knows.

    Even though I’m very much in the mood to give up, I’m going to try on of the places on a list I found here..


    happy testing!

  15. I visited the clinic in Sannomiya around February/March 2009 and it was open. However, I went two days ago to find an empty room. I will check up on this soon.

    I went to the Amemura location but only found a goth-loli clothing store on the 4th floor.

  16. hey yes i went to the sannomiya clinic on June 15, and it was closed. Are they trying to avoid swine flu issues?

  17. Hat, take another look at the bottom of this article? It’s right there above the Shinjuku map:
    2-7-8, Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.

  18. Interesting article. I heard that most of the HIV/AIDs infections in japan were prodominantly from men to men.

    I have heard that it’s very unlikely to get aids off a girl, who has aids if you are a guy (From a medical professional- almost one chance in a hundred)

    I’ve lived in Japan for close to five years…I guess I only had protected sex, when the girl asked to. which, was about 20-30 percent of the time . I had sex with a lot of girls, not counting, but I’d say well over a hundred, but I’ve never had any sexual disease whatsoever when I have been tested. I’m not sure if thats luck, but that’s my story, maybe it’s my choice of girls.

    I think it’s better if people are using protection. But it kind of makes me think, (shoot me down if you like) a lot of HIV/AIDS problems, come from male to male sex, bi-men with aids, who have sex with woman and people sharing syringes, with drug use. I also think possibly Japanese men (especially very shy types) (as well as foreigners) who go to certian parts of asia for paid sex, or also men who pay for sex in japan (Soap Lands-places where japanese men can go for paid sex-where woman can have sex with many men in one day, which can be unprotected!) also pose the majority of risk.

  19. @hello. there are more cases of HIV in heterosexual couples than homosexual ones. one if the reasons is because only about 10% of men in the world are gay (this is an estimated figure based on research) and the fact that there is only a 0.5% chance of contracting HIV from a girl during normal intercourse lasting between 5 and 20 minutes is not a statistic that should be taken in isolation.

    for example if you sleep with a girl more than once the chance increases, if you have prolonged sex the chance rises, if you partake in high risk sex such as anal the chance increases dramatically. this is why prostitutes have a grater chance of contracting an STI because they have sex more often and with more people. therefore if you sleep with one they are more likely to have an STI and you game of Russian roulette has just had another bullet added in.

    other infections are spread much easier than others chlamydia has a 40% chance. gonorrhea has a 20-90% chance( a paper has just been released and featured in the new scientist about an incurable form of gonorrhea now in circulation in Kyoto) also many STIs can be spread orally.

    now i would say you have been lucky not to have contracted anything. your chose in girls has nothing to do with it (disease does not care about class or social disposition.) also in Sub-Saharan Africa which as the highest rate of HIV in the world, injection drug use is low. and the biggest cause of its spread is unprotected heterosexual sex.

    that attitude you have taken toward sex is disgusting, because you are not just putting your self at risk but also the women you are sleeping with. and could have given and STI to a number of women. Unless of course, you went and had a full STI examination after sleeping with each girl and waited for the results before sleeping with the next. and also had a HIV test every 3 months (because that is how long after catching HIV it takes for you to test positive) if you did do that, then i apologize because you are only putting yourself at risk and that is your right. but also remember if you have something it is a lot easier for a girl to contact an STI from a man because of the vaginal environment. and not to mention the chance of getting a girl pregnant.

    i also enjoy sex more with out a condom. but i will only forgo the protection after i have been in a monogamous relationship with a girl for a number of months, am happy with her, and after we have both been tested for peace of mind. and if we break up i get checked again before having another sexual partner.

    the japanese i know and have met are unbelievably ignorant about STIs (including a number of girlfriends i have had.) and it depresses me to see Gaiji go to japan and forget all they have been taught because it feels better to have sex without a condom.

    @Kashi one of the main reasons why the amount of pregnant women being diagnosed with HIV has increased is because not many people get regular checks. her and/or her husband may have had it for years form a former partner and not known about it before the mandatory testing.

    also the social acceptance of prostitution in japan has an impact. many married men will sleep with prostitutes and then go home to their wife and sleep with her. she will not get tested voluntarily because there is no reason to if she thinks she is in a monogamous relationship.

    men and women (Japanese and non-Japanese) with a bad and ignorant attitude to sexual health and safety in japan will mean that the rates of HIV and other STIs will just keep on rising, sadly much like the rest of the world.

  20. geia sas exw ena problima me ton adrfo mou pige me mia kopela giapwneza kai bgike alla meta pou to kanane eide aima epipileon itan poli steni kai ponouse kai mallon itan parthena alla den eimaste kai sigouri ,uparei periptwsei o aderfos mou na kolisei kati;i na meinei eguos;

  21. I’m interested to go other places, I’ve been the boy in the bubble since we’ve been shooting, I need to go travel a little bit, see where the action is, other than going to see family, of course.

  22. Where in the OSAKA area, can you get tested with the PCR test? I need a test that works 4 to 6 weeks after exposure. If not OSAKA, the TOKYO….


  23. I am currently living in Japan and have been going on dates with Japanese men. I regretfully had oral sex with two of these men. I’ve been freaking out about STDs and HIV. I just went to a clinic in Nakano to get tested. It was free….it was near my house, I was scared, and I needed to get tested immediately. I’ve had a case of tonsillitis and swelling on my lymph nodes recently. I find out my results in two days and I’ve never been so frightened in my life. I feel fine and I honestly do believe I was carefully enough during intercourse to not have any body fluids come into direct contact with me, but still there’s always a possibility. I’ve been trying to mental prepare myself with the fact that I may have something, but I only want to break down and cry. I love Japan and I love the opportunity of living here, but I believe Japan has problems like every country and talking about sex is a must with young people. I’ve gone to the local shrine and wished to be healthy, I’ve prayed too. I think I wrote this just to see what my feelings are towards this situation. Even if the HIV test is not free please get tested. I understand if you’re scared, but your life depends on your status and the earlier you know the easier it is to control YOUR status. For the next two days, I will smile, study, teach, watch the cherry blossoms, and drink sake……..if I am positive – I will cry for one minute and then go back to living life to the fullest. I only pray to God that I will cry tears for joy for not being positive. Please get tested.

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