Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) or Infections (STIs) in Japan
As with advice on other issues in Japan, please do not make the mistake of treating Japan as a special case where no harm will ever come of you regardless of your behavior. A combination of excessive drinking, liberal attitudes towards sex, all-night partying, and being treated like a minor celebrity (as a foreigner) in Japan can place people in situations where they seize opportunities and take foolish risks that they would not take back home. Take the precautions that you would normally take in Ireland and the UK. Treat your sexual health seriously and do not take risks that you might regret for the rest of your life. If you have had unprotected sex with anyone before or during your time in Japan, you should arrange a full STD/STI test as soon as possible. People can have minor and serious STDs/STIs and not show any symptoms for a long time after infection. Chlamydia for example can go undetected for years but cause irreversible and serious health problems later on in life. Do not place yourself or others at further risk by ignoring your mistake and hoping that the problem will just fade away. If you have had unprotected sex with anyone (regardless of whether or not you are experiencing symptoms), it is better to address the possible problem head on and to minimize the damage to your health and others by dealing with the issue early. It will also help you to relieve any mental anguish and doubt caused by the uncertainty of not being tested.
Please see the web links below for reports as well as media stories about STDs and STIs in Japan. According to the ‘Lonely Planet’ travel guide website for example:
‘AIDS & STDs’
AIDS and STDs can be avoided completely only by abstaining from sexual contact with new partners. Condom use in Japanese society is low. HIV is still relatively uncommon in Japan, but the incidence is slowly increasing. In the year 2000, 78% of new cases were contracted via sexual contact. Condoms can help prevent some sexually transmitted infections, but not all. If you have had sexual contact with a new partner while travelling, or have any symptoms such as a rash, pain or discharge, see a doctor for a full STD check-up.’
‘Japan’s Aids time bomb’ (from 2004)
Extract: ‘In Japan, one of the world’s wealthiest societies, awareness of the risks posed by the disease is almost non-existent among many young people, and yet their sexual behavior is increasingly risky. While HIV infection rates in Japan remain officially low at around 6,000, experts fear the real total could be higher, and will get a lot worse unless attitudes begin to change to a disease many Japanese believe only foreigners can catch. …… There are other statistics, which Dr. Akaeda finds even more alarming. Sexually transmitted diseases are rising rapidly among young women – a sure sign of having sex with multiple partners but without using condoms. “Teenagers these days are very casual about sex. I [Dr. Akaeda] gave away vouchers for free STD tests to girls, and found that 82% them were infected.’
‘Remember AIDS? It’s still a threat’
Extract from the ‘Japan Today’ newspaper: ‘While people in Japan have been gasping and coughing due to so-called PM 2.5 air pollutants mingled with the yellow dust from mainland Asia, Nikkan Gendai (March 20) serves up a reminder that AIDS, despite relatively quiet media coverage, remains a serious public health threat.’
What to do if you have engaged in unprotected sex before or during your time in Japan
If you have engaged in unprotected sex with anyone before and during your time in Japan, we strongly advice you to arrange to have an STD or STI test. Please see the INJ Emigrant ‘Healthcare’ link for details of English-speaking services, clinics, and hospitals in Japan:
If you wish to speak confidentially with an English speaker then we recommend the following phone numbers and links. These groups have no direct link to the INJ. You can be assured that your conversation will be held in the utmost of privacy and confidence.
Japan Helpline – this is a non-profit 24-hour English language nationwide emergency assistance service to foreign residents in Japan. They provide advice on anything from a simple question, to health issues and an emergency situation. – http://www.jhelp.com/en/jhlp.html
Phone Number - (0570 – 0000 – 911).
Tokyo English Life Line (TELL) – TELL offers anonymous telephone counseling in English for the international and Japanese community. Trained telephone counselors provide support on a wide range of issues. – http://www.telljp.com
Phone Number – (03-5774 – 0992).