August 6, 2002
A record high 621 people were newly infected with HIV last year in Japan, an increase of 34 percent over 2000, ministry official Makoto Iwakura said Tuesday citing the annual report of the ministry's disease control division. Of those new cases, 525 were Japanese nationals -- with about 40 percent being teenagers and people in their 20s. The others were foreigners living in Japan. Japanese AIDS experts said the new trend should be seen as a wake-up call and warned that the actual number of Japanese infected with HIV is probably about five times higher than the reported figures.
An official from the Japanese AIDS Foundation said on condition of anonymity that the increase is spurred by casual attitudes toward sex among young people as well as misconceptions about the risks. Prejudice against people with AIDS also discourages many young people from getting tested for the virus. To boost awareness of the danger of HIV, the Health Ministry began airing television commercials this month under the slogan "Stop AIDS" and featuring national soccer team goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki, who gained recent popularity in the 2002 World Cup hosted by Japan and South Korea.