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.
* 1/8 of all AIDS tests done in Japan last year were done here.
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,
* Only open on Sundays from 3PM-5PM. English speakers present.
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:
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.