Tuesday, December 1, 2015

HIV Check-up and Cold/Flu Prevention Posters in the Center for International Education

I was happily surprised to see a poster promoting HIV check-ups on the lonely wall across from the student lounge at the Center for International Education (CIE) at my university yesterday morning. By the end of the day there was a cold/flu prevention poster next to it. Aside from an old and torn poster about sexually transmitted diseases at the university health center (that recommends not having sex or at least not being promiscuous as the best ways to avoid HIV and other STDs - no mention of safe sex or condoms) this was the first HIV-specific poster I have ever seen at my university. I asked a CIE administrator and he told me it was placed there by the university health center.

The timing of the poster coincides with World AIDS Day, which is today, December 1st. Usually this is one of the few occasions in Japan when the problem of HIV/AIDS gets wide coverage in the media. This poster encourages people to get checked for HIV infection. It promises anonymous testing at local health clinics for free. There is no direct mention of prevention or education. (There is a hotline number and website included at the bottom of the poster.) Some might suggest that the "I" in HIV appears to be a condom - a subversive attempt to suggest safe sex?

The second poster, intended as advice for students from the CIE, says that the cold weather ("samui desu ne") season is coming so please don't forget to gargle and wash your hands. So this poster suggests ways to prevent colds and flu. Very nice - I hope the students heed this advice.

It would be nice if the HIV poster had prevention advice as well. Colds and flu can be prevented but HIV can only be tested for? When I asked the CIE administrator about the poster he was helpful and interested. His first question was about so-called HIV "patients" and how to deal with them. This seems to be a common approach rather than thinking about education, prevention, counseling and treatment. I don't mean to be critical of the administrator as he displayed real concern for the issues and the students. Nor do I mean to be critical of the health center - hopefully this is a start on their part in addressing HIV/AIDS at the university. (A colleague told me that he saw HIV information cards during a recent trip to the health center as well.) I should also mention that the Asian Studies Program has had a sexual health component (created primarily by one faculty member) as part of its orientation program for the last several years. But there is no such orientation for the local (and majority of) students on campus. Other faculty members in the ASP bring up these issues in class.

VAOJ has long been interested with the problematic HIV/AIDS situation in Japan, beginning with a research project examining HIV/AIDS in the Japanese Deaf World. HIV/AIDS continues to increase in Japan (along with the spread of other STDs). VAOJ advocates discourse on this subject from multiple and many varied perspectives. Ignorance, stigma and silence do nothing but add to the problem; please participate and contribute to open dialogues.

Click here for previous coverage of HIV/AIDS on VAOJ.

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