Japan Reports Record Number of New HIV Infections in April-June
August 28, 2006
Japan's Health Ministry recently announced an increase in new HIV infections that may indicate the infection rate is accelerating. In the three-month period from April to June of this year, 248 cases were diagnosed. This was the largest number since July-September in 2004, when 209 infections were reported, according to ministry official Yasuaki Hashimoto.
A ministry statement did not specify a cause for the increase but said the wider availability of HIV testing might account for the marked increase in infections among middle-aged Japanese.
Japan has 17,000 HIV/AIDS patients -- a low number compared to many other countries. According to UNAIDS, Japan's infection rate is 1 in 7,529, far lower than the 1 in 110 rate in Thailand. However, the rate at which HIV has spread in Japan in the past 10 years mirrors that of developing countries. Japanese tend to have low HIV awareness and to view it as a foreign problem. "We are greatly concerned about the trend," said Hashimoto.
According to the ministry's AIDS Surveillance Committee, two-thirds of newly infected patients are in their 20s and 30s, but infections among older people are also increasing. The ratio of those newly infected in their 40s and 50s rose to 31 percent in April-June, up from 22 percent in the previous quarter, said the committee's statement. Hashimoto said the increase could be due to June's weeklong awareness campaigns that featured extended clinic hours so that older people, often in managerial positions, could be tested.
Reported cases of HIV, which have been rising since 2002, hit a record high of 832 cases in 2005. The number of reported AIDS cases decreased in 2005 after a two-year increase. Experts argue that cases in Japan are severely underreported, estimating the number to be two to four times the official toll.
08.23.2006; Chisaki Watanabe
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.