Friday, November 30, 2012

Ken-Bun-Ki "World AIDS Day 1996"

Note: "Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki" is a series of articles I wrote for my Japanese City Hall newsletter back in 1996-97. They were articles about life in America or life in Japan as experienced by an American.
This one is from November 28, 1996.

According to the World Health Organization, as of the end of 1994 the number of people throughout the world who are infected with AIDS has reached 17 million. In order to increase knowledge about AIDS, December 1 has been established as World AIDS Day.

The  virus that causes AIDS is called HIV. The transmission of HIV is limited to blood or other bodily fluids. There have also been cases where the infection was transmitted through unheated blood or plasma that had been tainted. Usually if razors, needles, and hypodermics are not shared between people the virus cannot be transferred. Mosquitoes who have bitten an AIDS patient, coughs, sneezes, public bathes, toilets, and kisses and hand-shakes are safe. During your normal day-to-day life at home, at the office, or at school there is no way for you to be accidentally infected.

However, unfortunately the correct information about AIDS was not always known, so there have been  cases of discrimination and prejudice against infected people, patients, homosexuals, and foreigners. The newest trend is that among those Japanese people who have reported being infected with HIV, 70% of them are 20-30 year olds who were infected via heterosexual activity.

Let's all learn the facts about AIDS so we can end the discrimination as quickly as possible. While working on a cure for AIDS, let's also build a society where the patients and infected people can co-exist with us.
This is probably the Ken-Bun-Ki article I am most proud of. When I was writing innocent little articles about Christmas and Thanksgiving I was working at the Aya Town City Hall and Cultural Center. The Health & Welfare section of the Japanese government had distributed posters to each city hall within each prefecture (state). I saw these every day I went to work, and I quickly decided to write about this then-new "World AIDS Day" activity. This article was met with some resistance, and it was edited somewhat, but my overall message remained. I respected my office very much for allowing this to be printed.
Sixteen years later there have been countless millions of deaths due to AIDS. But on the bright side, there are drugs that halt the virus, so millions more have learned that being diagnosed as having HIV is not necessarily an instant death sentence.
And more to the point of this article, the anxiety about and out-right hatred towards people like Ryan White and other AIDS sufferers has mostly disappeared.  And for that, we can all be proud.

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