Japan’s Bathhouse Outreach Program

December 4, 2013

Infection rates among gay men in Japan have been steadily increasing. Reports from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s AIDS Surveillance Committee, new reports of HIV patients in Japan totaled 1,500 in 2012. There are a total number of 21,000 patients with HIV/AIDS. Of that number, 6,719 have full-blown AIDS. The remaining, totaling 14,706 are dealing with the virus. Compared to other countries, that might not seem like a lot. But for the Japanese gay community, those numbers are cause for concern.

The problem is that Japan does not place a high priority on HIV prevention and sex education programs in schools. Two programs hope to change that, by going directly into gay saunas across Japan.

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Delivery Boys and Adult Delivery go into gay saunas to spread the message of HIV prevention. Counselors go into these bathhouses to offer condoms, safe sex education and information on HIV testing. This is not new, as there is many outreach programs like this in the US. Before these programs, condoms were not readily accessible at Japanese saunas. In fact you had to ask the cashier for a condom, which were behind the counter.

These two programs hope to change that mindset. Says director Junko Araki, “We want to change the image of a condom as being thought of as simply a method of preventing pregnancy to something used in relation to stopping STIs, or for the benefit of one’s health”.

“The idea is not to encourage people to think, ‘Well, there are plenty of free condoms around town so I don’t need to bother buying them,’” he said. “Our strategy is not to simply increase condom use, but also to try and change the way people think and encourage them to get into the habit of buying condoms themselves.”

For more go to HIV: ‘The fire across the river’

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