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Jump in reported AIDS cases catches Kyushu health authorities unawares

15 Comments

There it was, on the front page of the Sept 19 edition of Kyushu's largest daily newspaper, the Nishi Nihon Shimbun: "Rapid increase in AIDS cases in Kyushu: 61% rise in Fukuoka in 2016."

For some, the news may have thrown a wet blanket on the SoftBank Hawks' celebrations in winning the first round of the Pacific League pennant.

Last year, reports Asahi Geino (Oct 5), 46 new cases of people testing HIV positive were reported in Fukuoka Prefecture, bringing the combined number of HIV and AIDS cases to 92. While the figure may seem small, it's the highest ever recorded, representing a 61% increase over the previous year. A total of 308 cases have been reported in Fukuoka since 2011.

What's interesting is that all other prefectures in Kyushu, with the exception of Kumamoto, also reported a rise in new cases. In alphabetical order, with the number of cases in parentheses, were Kagoshima (26 cases); Miyazaki (22); Nagasaki (13); Oita (12); and Saga (5).

It should be noted that while the number of HIV-positive cases in Japan's three largest metropolitan areas were much higher, the numbers reported in Tokyo, Aichi and Osaka all declined from previous years.

More disturbing, the article notes, is that Kyushu now accounts for 30% of the nation's cases of full-blown AIDS, half of which reside in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Predictably, the news attracted the usual emotional posts on internet bulletin boards. "It's because there are lots of homosexuals in Kyushu," one posted. "Since Kyushu is geographically closer to the Asian mainland, visitors from there are spreading it. Let's quarantine Kyushu!" another exhorted.

To investigate the reasons for the contagion, the magazine asked Dr Hideomi Nakahara, a specialist in infectious diseases.

"We can't be sure if the numbers of patients have actually increased, or if the figures are higher because more people are getting tested," Nakahara remarked, although he supposes the reason is the former. "We don't know the reason why it's happening in Kyushu, but it's possible that the spread is localized."

A public health official in Fukuoka told the magazine, "In the 2015 report, the total number of 27 new cases was seen as fairly low. We suppose that the jump in cases resulted from people not getting tested during 2015, and then starting to show symptoms of AIDS last year."

A report by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare published on Aug 30 noted that "The number of newly reported HIV and AIDS cases has been stable." From 2001 to 2015, the ministry has issued new data for cases in all of Japan's 47 prefectures every five years. From 2001 to 2005, for example, 87 known cases were reported in Fukuoka. This rose to 230 from 2006 to 2010, and then to 308 during 2011-2015.

"Fukuoka's status as 'doorway of the west' is seen as an important factor," the aforementioned public health official was quoted as saying. "The large number of tourist arrivals coming from nearby Asian countries may be one factor."

Reporter Takayori Maeda notes that Fukuoka has a lively gay community with numerous hattenba (places for gay encounters), as well as parts of the town where gay prostitutes in drag cruise the streets around short-time hotels. Some may be female impersonators from other Asian countries.

"Because drug treatments can control the virus after infection, AIDS is not feared as much as it was in the 1980s, and coverage by the media has also declined," remarked Dr Nakahara. "You don't want people spreading rumors about your having caught it. It can be prevented through proper precautions during sex. Especially for encounters with a first-time partner, use of condoms is essential.

"People should take steps to protect themselves through preventative measures," he advised.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

15 Comments
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 "The large number of tourist arrivals coming from nearby Asian countries may be one factor."

Huh? That doesnt make a lot of sense. Are tourists getting medical checkups at japanese hospitals, and hence showing up in the stats?

Are huge amounts of Japanese people chatting up, picking up these package tourists during their one-week sojourn? Nearly all the Asian tourists I see are affluent and stick closely together in their groups. usually with family members.

This is 90s redux. The Japanese media mostly blamed foreigners and Japanese women, when the biggest risk group statistically were Japanese men, including heteros - you know, the guys who always refuse to use condoms, including when they make their frequent visits to the local knocking shops.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Fukuoka has a lively gay community with numerous hattenba (places for gay encounters), as well as parts of the town where gay prostitutes in drag cruise the streets...

Here's your answer, or at least of them. There's no mention of the fact that one of the largest concentrations of yakuza are in Fukuoka. They run the drug trade including a lot of intravenous drugs. They're also responsible for a large number girls and boys for the sex trafficking trade.

Perhaps there's been an increase in their activity in Fukuoka and Kyushu since the police are concentrating on Kobe (the yakuza rivals) and Tokyo (crackdown/cleanup before the Olympics) might have something to do with it, too.

Blaming it on Asian tourists is weak and predictable. Reeking xenophobia still lingering in the air like usual.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Been in Japan over a decade and can count on one hand the number of Japanese girls who brought up condom use before I did.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Blaming it on Asian tourists is weak and predictable. Reeking xenophobia still lingering in the air like usual.

When a low-grade weekly tabloid magazine like Asahi Geino wants to be xenophobic, you'll know it, as subtlety is lost upon them. And if a physician states the cause for the increase is yet unknown, but implies that sexual contacts between Japanese and foreigners should not be ruled out as "one possible source of contagion," it looks to me like the magazine is bending over backwards to be politically correct.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Never heard Fukuoka described as the "doorway of the west" before. "Gateway to Asia", maybe....

The timing and the phrasing are somewhat suspicious here, almost as if someone's pushing an agenda....

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Fukuoka has always had the highest rate of STD infections in japan and it has nothing to do with southeast Asian tourists.

Its the proximity to the rest of Asia. A lot of Japanese guys in Fukuoka travel to Southeast Asia for business, holidays, sex tourism, you name it, drink too much and then come home with more than a souvenir from the airport in Bangkok.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Maybe they should use condoms before sex with strangers?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Blaming foreigners again.

Maybe condom use should be promoted, pretending it isn't a Japanese problem is only going to make matters worse. Teaching safer sex in schools would be a start.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

A lot of Japanese guys in Fukuoka travel to Southeast Asia for business, holidays, sex tourism, you name it, drink too much and then come home with more than a souvenir from the airport in Bangkok.

You'll get no disagreement from me, but generally when infectious diseases are reported to the authorities by physicians, travel to foreign countries goes into the data mix. It would have helped if that were mentioned in the article. That it was not raised in the article makes it more difficult to draw any conclusions.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have never once have a lady here ask if I could wear a condom. They are just happy to get going. This is very risky behavior that should have been taught and talked to about when growing up.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

" From 2001 to 2015, the ministry has issues new data for cases in all of Japan's 47 prefectures every five years. "

Dobt you mean "issued"?

""Fukuoka's status as 'doorway of the west' is seen as an important factor," the aforementioned public health official was quoted as saying."

Can you give us the original quote in Japanese? Did the official really say that? Fukuoka is often called the "gateway to Asia". Never heard it referred to as a "doorway of the west" and the article doesn't expand on this supposed western contact, but does talk about contact with Asians.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Dobt --- Don't

1 ( +1 / -0 )

For some, the news may have thrown a wet blanket on the SoftBank Hawks' celebrations in winning the first round of the Pacific League pennant.

Bit flippant and trivial given the topic, no?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bit flippant and trivial given the topic, no?

Not if it was part of the original Asahi Geino article from which the translation was sourced.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

no rubbers sold in fukuoka?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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