H.POT - HIV multilingual info Japan

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Here is some important information in English about HIV/AIDS and a gay/bisexual sex life for people living in Japan.
Brought to you by 'HIV Map,' a comprehensive HIV information website.

What is HIV?

HIV is the name of the virus that causes AIDS. People who carry the HIV virus can infect other people if their body fluids such as semen (cum) or blood come in contact with the membranes or an open wound of another person. Infections mainly occur through sex without a condom or sharing needles which have not been disinfected. HIV cannot be passed through regular daily activities such as sharing eating utensils or using the same toilet.

What is AIDS?

AIDS is the name of the condition or set of diseases which are caused by the HIV virus. After the HIV virus enters the body, it affects the immune system, which, gradually, usually over some years, becomes weaker, making the body more vulnerable to disease. When the immune system is weakened to the point that the person becomes ill with infections that a normally functioning immune system would protect the body from, we say that they have AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). If not treated and the immune system continues to weaken, there is a high risk of death.

Is HIV spreading in Japan?

In Japan, every year since around 2007, about 1,500 people find out that they are HIV positive. Data shows that the main cause of infection is sex between men. There is a big surge in the number of foreign nationals living in Japan who become infected through same sex activity. Without taking an HIV test, it's impossible to know for sure if you're HIV positive, so many people would be unaware even if they were. This means that the number of HIV positive people may be even greater.

How can HIV infection be prevented?

Using a condom during sex is the best way to prevent HIV infection. Anal sex without a condom is of course risky for the bottom partner but also for the top. Also during oral sex, there is a risk of HIV infection for the partner who is going down. To increase safety, it's better to use a condom during oral sex too. Also if one of the partners has another sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, etc. the risk of HIV infection increases. Regular testing for STIs is a good idea, and if you have what might be an STI symptom, its better to see a doctor as soon as you can.

Can you tell if you've been infected with HIV?

Some people experience influenza-like symptoms 2-4 weeks after HIV infection. But some people experience no symptoms whatsoever. So it's impossible to diagnose HIV on the basis of just symptoms alone. The only way to tell is to get a blood test. But taking a blood test straight after unprotected sex may not give an accurate result. It's recommended that you take another test 2-3 months after possible infection to confirm your HIV status. It's also recommended that men who have sex with men (MSM) take regular HIV tests.

Where and how to get an HIV test

Free and anonymous HIV testing is available at public health centers. It's not necessary to give your name and address and privacy is strictly protected. However there are not very many public health centers that have English speakers on staff, so it's better to consult with multilingual help lines or NPOs that provide interpreters. It's also possible to get tested at hospitals or clinics, but these tests are not free or anonymous.

What happens if the test result is positive?

If the result of the test is confirmed as positive, the test site will give a referral to a hospital or clinic that can treat HIV. In Japan there is no law which prohibits HIV positive people from living here, so no one is legally required to leave Japan. Also, medical facilities must treat all patients regardless of their nationality or residential status. However, the number of facilities which can give appropriate advice in English is limited, so it's best to consult with the public health center or NPOs about which hospital or clinic to go to. At the hospital further tests to determine the state of the immune system will be conducted and then they can advise about treatment. Almost anyone who is staying in Japan for over 3 months, for work, studying, etc. is eligible to join the public health insurance system, but there are exceptions, which the workplace or school/university can advise about. There are also welfare benefits for HIV positive people which can cut the costs of treatment. Social workers at the hospital or NPOs can advise how to access these.

Treatment for HIV/AIDS

There is not yet a drug which can completely eliminate HIV from the body, but there are anti-retroviral drugs which prevent the amount of virus in the body from increasing. Continuous treatment with these drugs allows a person with HIV to live the same daily life they were leading before infection. That's why if you're infected, the sooner you find out and get the necessary treatment, the better. Once treatment starts it's important to take the medication every day. Even if HIV has progressed to AIDS, effective treatment can restore body condition.