June 16, 2004
HLWM said Japan reported 976 HIV cases in 2003, a record high. And some AIDS patients died because of delays in detecting the disease. Last year, 87 people who donated blood tested HIV-positive, up from 34 in 1992.
While public health centers provide free, anonymous HIV tests, they typically do so only once a week in sessions lasting about two hours. Legal and health insurance administration problems block ordinary hospitals from providing HIV tests free and anonymously.
To bypass those difficulties, HLWM will allow the Japanese Red Cross Society to commission medical institutions to conduct the tests. Those who want an HIV test can be interviewed by blood donor facility doctors, who will refer the patient for testing at a designated medical institution. The Red Cross Society will pay about ¥7,000 ($64) for each free test. HLWM anticipates ¥200 million-¥300 million ($1.8 million-$2.7 million) altogether to subsidize the tests.
Free public HIV testing peaked in Japan in 1992 at about 135,000, according to HLWM. Recent years have seen annual tests at 50,000-70,000. HLWM plans to pilot the program in Hokkaido, Tokyo and the Osaka Prefecture, and will expand the program if it proves successful.