General information on HIV/AIDS in Japan
HIV/AIDS Situation among Gay/MSM Communities in Japan
This article does not necessary reflect all of the views in the communities
1. Situation of HIV Infection among Gay/MSM Communities
The total cumulative number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA: henceforth positive persons) as of 2nd October 2005, is 10,677. The number of infections through male-to-male sexual conduct is 3,895 accounting for approximately 37% of the total figure1. However, the proportion of infections through male-to-male sexual conducts among newly infected people reported in one year has been increasing rapidly from 37% (2000), 43% (2001), 45% (2002), 46% (2003) to 52% in 2004, which results as the majority.
Moreover, although the increased infection rate through heterosexual contact has nearly stabilized from 331 (2000) to 335 (2004), the rate resulting from male-to-male sexual conducts has doubled from 291 to 609. Therefore, the increase of HIV infection in Japan since the 2000's is predominantly due to male-to-male sexual conducts, and HIV infection among gay/bisexual men appears to be raising an extremely serious issue.
2. HIV/AIDS Activities in Gay/MSM Communities in Japan: 1980's
The first care and support activities on HIV for gay/bisexual men in Japan was a hot line started in 1985 by International Gay Association Japan (later renamed International Lesbian and Gay Association Japan). This was also the first private HIV counseling center in Japan. Japan Association for the Lesbian and Gay Movement (OCCUR) is also an organization for lesbian/gay movement established in 1986. In 1988, it launched a movement against the HIV Prevention Bill that had a strong intention for so-called "social defense", which means strict control and oppression against PLWHAs.
Until 1990, NGO activities had focused only on hot lines and political movements to protect human rights of PLWHA, however, as the number of positive people increased, the emphasis was shifted to provide direct support and enlightening activities. At that time it was women, such as housewives, who played a core role in NGOs that supported HIV positive people directly.
3. HIV/AIDS Intervention Activities from Late 1990's
In the late 1990's, there was a significant turn in the activities for raising awareness on HIV/AIDS. Collaboration between the Epidemiological Research Group in the Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare (MLHW) and AIDS NGOs was launched. Its first cooperation concerning HIV infection among men who have sex with other men was an event for raising awareness conducted at a gay sauna bath in 1997. This activity was realized through the combined efforts of the researchers in the research group, Shinjuku Health Center (public organization), and "Gay Friends for AIDS", a division in "Place Tokyo", one of the main AIDS Service Organizations located in Tokyo. This cooperation set off the establishment of MASH Osaka; a group that implements activities for gay/bisexual men through the partnership between researchers, the central and local government, and NGOs. MASH Osaka organized an event that offered an opportunity of HIV anonymous testing, whose style was followed by another event called NLGR Nagoya Lesbian and Gay Revolution, that started in 2001 in Nagoya, third largest city in Japan.
Furthermore, such collaboration between the research group and NGOs has led to the establishment of Community Centers in gay bar concentrated areas, which act as a focus point for activities for raising awareness. Place Tokyo and OCCUR each organized research groups with financial support from MLHW. In its research, the latter holds workshops for young gay men. Place Tokyo currently supports the largest number of positive persons, and it also provides the messages from the positive persons and their parties for the public.
4. Conclusion: More Efforts Needed
However, as was mentioned in the beginning, HIV infection through homosexual sex is becoming drastically serious, which is strongly requiring increased effective activities for prevention and raising awareness. In order to achieve this, it is essential that human resources and funding be invested on an extremely large scale.
1. Cases of male-to-male conduct include cases of people who have sexual conducts with people with same and opposite sexes.released: 31st, March, 2006
This article is written by Hideki, SUNAGAWA
Board Member, Tokyo Pride