AIDS IN JAPANredribbon

General information on HIV/AIDS in Japan

Sex workers

Sex workers and HIV/AIDS: Basic information

This article does not necessary reflect all of the views in the communities

1. Brief history related to HIV/AIDS and SWs

History related to HIV/AIDS and sex workers (SWs) in Japan originates in Matsumoto AIDS panic in 1986 and Kobe AIDS panic in 1987 . Although there were few information about the infected person in the Matsumoto's case, and the infected Japanese woman was not related to commercial sex works in the Kobe's case, media excessively misreported that these two infected women were engaged in commercial sex works. As a purpose of preventing further HIV infections, media revealed the name and picture of these infected women. Also they forcibly interviewed with their family members and took their pictures without their permissions. Information from these excessive media's reports caused strong fear of HIV infection in Japanese society. Due to the social fear of infection, the number of people who receive HIV test at public health center had rapidly increased.

2. Marginalised population

Excessive media's report also created the strong stereotypical image that "SWs with HIV = persons who spread the infection". On the other hand, however, it is often neglected that HIV can also be spread from their clients to SWs. In fact, regardless of such strong social fear of HIV infection among Japanese general population, there have been no programs or interventions that have been conducted Care defined SWs as "those who engage in commercial sex industries or their clients". The guideline also classified SWs as one of the most prioritized groups for HIV prevention programs. Despite of the guideline, there are a few HIV prevention programs targeting SWs or their clients that is currently implemented by the Japanese government or local community organizations. This situation also applies to academic research fields. In Japan, HIV/AIDS related research focus more on MSM, youths, and pregnant women, but less on SWs.

3. What is the HIV prevalence rate among SWs in Japan?

There are no registration systems for SWs in Japan . As long as the infectious disease control law does not say, it is not required for newly employed SWs to fill out individual past experiences in commercial sex industry. Therefore, there is no official data for "HIV prevalence among SWs" and also the data on "proportions of HIV cases of SWs to the total HIV cases". In addition, large-scale surveys for SWs (or their clients) have never been conducted in Japan. Thus, HIV/AIDS situations on SWs are largely unknown. Although there is no official reports of HIV cases among SWs, existing research suggest generally higher prevalence rates and history of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) such as Chlamydia and Syphilis among SWs, as opposed to general populations. Although actual HIV prevalence rates are low in Japan, it is considered that HIV risk is quite high in particular work places where prevention is incapable. These findings apply to female SWs but not to male or transgender sex workers.

4. Current problems of SWs

  • The increasing popularity of "delivery-style sex work" (a SW visits directly to a client's door): After 1999 when modified Entertainment Business Control Law was amended, "delivery-style sex works" have increased. It is more difficult to provide HIV prevention services to "delivery-style sex workers", compared to "venue-based sex workers". Also, they are more vulnerable to violence or physical abuse from their clients.
  • The effects of clean-up program: Many commercial sex venues, particularly the ones around Tokyo areas, have been cleaned up. As a result, many SWs including foreign sex workers are now working at poorer working environments. This is due to the lack of coordination between polices and the Ministry of health, labour, and Welfare. HIV prevention efforts by the Ministry of health, labour, and Welfare are contradictory to the commercial sex control programs by the police.
  • No HIV prevention programs or interventions targeting the clients or the venues:
  • Lack of support and care for foreign SWs:

Usuful information;

released: 31st, March, 2006

This article is written by Nozomi,MIZUSHIMA

Research fellow, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies
University of Tokyo
Chairperson of SW-rpm