Friday, November 29, 2013

Visual Anthropology of Japan Fall Student Film Festival

Join us under the stars in an intimate setting for the VAOJ Fall Student Film Festival. The event is located at Kansai Gaidai University in front of the CIE building. Bring a (warm) drink, blanket and someone to keep you warm. There is a wide variety of subjects featured in seven short films.

Film titles and filmmakers:

Japanese Game Centers by Ashley Glazebrook
31st by Thomas Klecka
Agrim: From Nepal to Japan by Lee Lester
Wishes and Good Fortunes: Ema and Omikuji by Gabriella Munoz
Love Languages by Caitlin Skvorc
The Stroke of a Word: Japanese Calligraphy by Allison Stalberg
I am a Hafu: In Two Worlds (Japan/Korea) by Julie Xiong

Free and open to all!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Red Cross to step up checks on donated blood"

An update from yesterday's HIV/AIDS news. From The Japan News, 11/28/13:

The Japanese Red Cross Society has said it will improve the precision of HIV tests on donated blood following the revelation that blood infected with the HIV virus was transfused to two people and infected one of them with the virus after slipping through checks by the society this year.

The infection is the first since the society strengthened its checking system in 2004 after another case of HIV infection through blood transfusion in 2003.

The society currently tests samples of donated blood from groups of 20 people, but the society said it will improve the accuracy of the checks by next summer and test the sample of each donor’s blood individually.

According to the society, transfusion of the infected blood occurred in February and October, to one person each time. A man in his 60s who received the blood in October during surgery for a chronic disease of the digestive system became infected with HIV. Whether the other person has been infected with the virus will be examined later, the society said.

The donor, a Japanese man in his 40s, donated blood five times until his HIV infection became apparent in November. His donation in November was not used for transfusion because the society’s test detected antibodies to the HIV virus in his blood. However, his February donation slipped through the test and was transfused to two people because the amount of the virus in that donation was very small.

In the early stages of an HIV infection, there is a period when it is difficult to detect the virus in the blood because the amount is very small. This is likely what happened in this case.

In 1999, the society introduced the nucleic acid amplification test (NAT) that detects the genes of the HIV virus with a high level of accuracy by amplifying the genes. In 2003, however, infected blood slipped through these tests and caused an HIV infection. To increase the level of precision, the society in 2004 started checking samples of donated blood from groups of 20 people, compared with groups of 50 as it had done previously. Now the society has decided to check the sample of each donor’s blood individually.

After the revelation of the infection, the donor told the society that he had sexual contact with another man about two weeks before donating the blood. But he did not disclose this on the checklist he had to complete before the donation.

The society believes he likely made the blood donation because he wanted to have an HIV check.

Perfect defense difficult

Although the Japanese Red Cross Society says it will review the checking system of donated blood in the wake of an HIV infection caused by blood donated by an infected person, it is technically difficult to perfectly prevent tainted blood from slipping through tests.

This is because of the period during the early stages of an HIV infection when the virus is undetectable. This is called the window period.

When someone is infected with HIV through sexual contact, the virus multiplies and emerges in the blood within a month. The NAT can detect the virus if there is a certain amount of it in the blood. But the current NAT can only detect the virus 13 days after the virus has started emerging in the blood.

Therefore, even after the current testing system started in 2004, it has been pointed out that infected blood donated during the 40 days or so of the window period after potentially risky sexual contact could slip through the test undetected.

From next summer, the society will conduct the NAT on each donor’s blood individually. This will make the test 20 times more precise, but even with this step the window period will become only two days shorter so it cannot be called a sweeping solution.

Last year, 68 cases of HIV infection were detected from about 5.27 million samples of donated blood. The rate is about twice as high as the rate of new patients with HIV infection found in the country. The society makes it a rule in principle not to tell the result of the HIV test to donors who tested positive, but it seems there is no end to people donating blood to test for HIV infection.


Happy Thanksgiving!


55 blood donations discarded as HIV-tainted
(The Japan News, 11/29/13)

Fifty-five of the about 3.9 million blood donations made from January through September this year were found to be HIV positive, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s AIDS Surveillance Committee announced Wednesday.

All 55 donations of HIV-tainted blood were discarded and not used in transfusions. However, the Japanese Red Cross Society confirmed by Monday that one donation of infected blood slipped through the HIV screening in February and was transfused to two people, consequently infecting one of them with the disease.

“Some people still seem to make blood donations to check if they are HIV positive,” a ministry official said.

The ministry urges people to take free and anonymous HIV tests at public heath centers instead.

According to the committee, there were 3.91 million blood donations by September this year. There has been a rate of 1.41 cases of HIV per every 100,000 donations, which is about twice as high as the rate of people with HIV infection newly found nationwide. There were 68 cases of HIV detected last year, representing an HIV-infection rate of 1.29 per 100,000 donations.



Tainted blood recipient HIV-free
(The Japan News, 12/1/13)

A woman in her 80s who received blood from an HIV-infected male donor has tested negative for the virus, the health ministry has said.

The blood from the donor in his 40s was transfused to two people. The other recipient, a man in his 60s, was found earlier this week to have been infected with the virus, which causes AIDS.

According to the ministry, the woman received a transfusion of a red blood cell product made from the donor’s blood in February after a bone fracture.

The woman escaped infection because 90 percent of blood plasma, where the HIV virus exists, was removed from the red blood cell product, according to officials of the Japanese Red Cross Society.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

HIV/AIDS in Japan: More Tainted Blood Given to Patients

The two related stories below as reported by The Japan News happen to coincide with both my Deaf World Japan and Japan and Globalization classes' recent study and discussions of the HIV/AIDS situation for both hearing and deaf people in Japan. In addition, World AIDS Day is coming up soon (December 1) and so the media will probably have more coverage about the positive steps taken in the fight against AIDS. But apparently not in Japan...

HIV-tainted blood given to 2 patients

Blood from a donor infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, was transfused into two patients as the donated blood slipped through checks by the Japanese Red Cross Society, it was learned Tuesday.

The Japanese Red Cross Society and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry have identified the recipients of the blood transfusions and are checking whether they were infected with the virus.

The ministry’s Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council will discuss steps to be taken at a panel on blood product operations.

It is the first time that blood from a donor infected with HIV was found to have been transfused to patients since the Japanese Red Cross Society reinforced its checking systems in 2004, after a case of HIV infection through blood transfusion was found the previous year.

According to the ministry and the Japanese Red Cross Society, HIV antibodies were detected in blood that was donated earlier this month. Though that blood was not used for transfusion, it was found that the same donor had also given blood in February this year.

The society checked a stored sample from the earlier donation, and HIV genes were detected. The society also confirmed that the blood, given by an unnamed man, was transfused to two patients at two different medical institutions.

The Japanese Red Cross Society said the man wrote untrue answers on a 23-point checklist at the time of his recent donation, including a question about whether he was making the donation to receive an HIV test because he was worried about AIDS.

The ministry's position is that the man possibly donated blood aiming to check whether he was infected with AIDS.

The checks are conducted in two stages. First, each blood sample undergoes tests to detect antibodies of viruses. Since 1999, this has been followed by higher-accuracy tests conducted on groups of 20 samples.

If any group is found to contain a sample that is HIV-positive, all the samples are checked in more detail to pinpoint the donor in question. The blood that was transfused to the two patients this year was not found to be HIV-positive when it was checked in February.

However, this may be due to the fact that HIV infection has an initial stage called a window period, during which the viruses cannot be detected because there is such a small amount of them in the blood.

The test the Japanese Red Cross Society introduced in 1999 is called the nucleic acid amplification test (NAT), which multiplies the number of virus genes in a sample to more accurately detect their existence.

But in 2003, a quantity of donated blood passed through the NAT check and was transfused to a patient, who was later found to be infected with HIV.

To further improve the accuracy of the checks, the Japanese Red Cross Society tightened procedures in 2004. The NAT tests, which had been conducted on samples from groups of 50 donors, are now conducted on samples from groups of 20.

The society is considering further reducing the number in the group checks. “We want to shorten the period during which viruses cannot be detected as far as possible,” an official of the society said.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura said at a press conference Tuesday morning after a Cabinet meeting, “I want to consider an option that [samples] of each donor will be checked [individually rather than in groups].”


Man diagnosed as HIV positive

A man in his 60s who received blood from an HIV-infected donor has been diagnosed as HIV positive, the Japanese Red Cross Society said Tuesday.

The man is one of two people who received blood transfusions from the donor. Whether the other person has been infected with the virus remains unknown, the Red Cross told a health ministry committee.

According to the Red Cross, the donor is a Japanese man in his 40s. Although he had homosexual affairs in the six-month period prior to donating blood, he did not report the fact when he gave blood in February.

After identifying the two recipients, the Red Cross conducted infection screenings and found that a man in his 60s suffering from a chronic digestive disorder tested positive for the HIV virus in a checkup carried out this month after a blood transfusion in October.

The Red Cross did not give any details on others who received blood transfusions in February.


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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Iwate tries to crack down on upskirt photos taken with cell phones"

From today's Japan Today:

The northern prefecture of Iwate has Japanese Internet commentators furious over a recent proposal by police there to criminalize pointing a cell phone toward someone if it is suspected the would be photographer is trying to get an upskirt picture.

Police say that they want to “expand” their approach to catching perverts sneaking naughty photos, but critics say this proposed legislation will turn any man with a cell phone into a potential criminal, regardless of whether their finger goes anywhere near the shutter button.

Currently under Iwate law, taking photos of someone’s underwear without their knowledge is only illegal if law enforcement have proof that a picture is taken. In the day and age of easily deletable digital pictures, police say that it is too easy for these panty paparazzi to erase the evidence. Moreover, with smartphone apps that can silence the shutter sound (a big no-no in Japan), they complain too many people are getting away with upskirt photography. So police want to be able to prosecute someone for proof that they intended to take a picture, even if there is no physical evidence.

Netizens were quick to criticize the proposed law, which will come up for vote in the prefectural assembly next March. Otherwise innocent people would be unfairly arrested for just having a smartphone and perhaps staring too long in someone’s direction, they said. Worried about their freedom to brandish a camera phone freely without judgement, netizens said they would think twice about any upcoming travel plans to the northern prefecture if the law is passed.

—I don’t want to get arrested, so I’ll be avoiding Iwate from now on.

—Well, I didn’t really want to go there anyway.

According to a story by the Yomiuri Shimbun, the police will be taking public opinion until Dec 6 and then they will draft the final legislation based on what they hear from the people. Netizens have plenty to tell the Iwate authorities and hoped they would think twice before the prefecture becomes infamous for having the most upskirt pic convictions nationwide.

—I totally understand why, but all this will do is arrest innocent people.

—How will they prove it? Will it just be the word of the accuser against the accused? Sounds dubious.

—From far enough away, doesn’t any picture taken have the possibility of being pointed toward someone’s underwear. Where will the line be drawn?

Are the police justified in their call to crackdown on covert photography? Or are the netizens right and will this law create “criminals” whose only crime is pointing a smartphone in the wrong direction?


UPDATE: See also "Cop busted for filming up skirt of student on escalator" (Japan Today 11/25/13)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

2013 門真市地域伝統文化まつり (Kadoma-shi Neighborhood Traditional Culture Festival)

People, performers, characters, danjiri and mikoshi gathered in Kadoma-shi to celebrate Culture Day and the 50th anniversary of the city with a parade and festival. There was a great diversity in performances and danjiri styles by the different neighborhoods despite being in the same city.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

2013 秋祭り (Fall Festival)

Autumn has finally come and we are all relieved that the hot summer heat appears to be gone. Autumn also means that it is time for the fall danjiri festival in my neighborhood. There is a real sense of belonging and community among those who participate. It takes much effort to wear the clothes and pull and push the heavy danjiri through the narrow streets in the neighborhood. There is some danger of the danjiri tipping over or causing damage to houses and structures it passes by. This year a man lost his balance and fell backwards into a grove of trees. My participation in the event (I helped the man out and aside from a few scratches he was OK) increases every year, which means I have less opportunities to photograph the festival. I took an hour off from pushing to get these shots - I felt as though I was slacking off and not pulling my weight. Further challenges for the visual anthropologist...

At the end of the day three neighborhoods came together to share the festivity and a greater sense of community. These last two shots are of the danjiri and umbrella dancers from the neighborhood next to ours.

The fall festival brings neighbors and neighborhoods together in solidarity. It is fun and it is hard work. We were all sore that evening and for the next few days. But it is very much worth the effort.

Click below to see more fall festival photos:

2013 Fall Festival thumbnails

2012 秋祭り(Fall Festival)

2010 Local Matsuri in Classic Black & White

2010 Local Matsuri In Living Color