TV & Radio
Japan HIV Center to help on World AIDS Day
By ANGELA JEFFS
Caitlin Stronell and I are sitting in front of Ebisu Station when Skip Swanson skips into view with a twirl and a balletic bow.
Caitlin Stronell and Skip Swanson are volunteers at the Japan HIV Center in Tokyo, which is holding a hotline marathon this weekend to educate a public that is increasingly at risk.
Caitlin and Skip are both volunteers at the Japan HIV Center (JHC) in Tokyo, which is geared up for a snowstorm of calls today and tomorrow on a special 36-hour hotline marathon, being held in connection with World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.
I met Caitlin first in 1999 when she was active with promoting the U.K. monthly magazine New Internationalist. Being the political animal she is, she's still involved, but less so. "The urgency of spreading awareness here about HIV has become paramount." Carried by activist parents on marches from the day she was born -- in a baby sling! -- she first came to Japan in 1984, "when I was 17."
Skip left Iowa directly after university, and in 1990 worked in a buddy program, acting as a friend and support for a person living with HIV/AIDS.
Growing up in the Midwest, HIV had not yet affected anyone close to him, but as a gay man he felt it was only a matter of time and vowed to take action to learn and deal with the collective fear of AIDS and people with AIDS. "As soon as I arrived in Japan, I looked for a place to volunteer. Other than that, I had no idea what to do with my life. Since then I've gotten clear: as a professional life coach, now I help people get in touch with their creative potential."
Initially in Japan, the human immunodeficiency virus was mainly linked to hemophiliacs receiving infected blood transfusions; people tried to distance themselves by labeling AIDS a "foreigner's disease." When a name was needed in 1989 in order to bring a class-action suit against the Japanese government and drug companies, one brave soul, Noriyasu Akase, went public.
He was one of the founding members of JHC, which was established in Osaka in 1988. The Tokyo branch opened the following year. Now there are six more branches: in Wakayama, Okayama, Shikoku, Nagoya, Chubu (area around Nagoya) and Hyogo. Caitlin says there are some 500 JHC volunteers nationally, including members and supporters.
"I teach at Tokyo Keizai University in Tokyo, and in July I took a busload of students to the 7th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. This is the most major international AIDS conference in our region and it was held in Kobe this year. When I first mentioned the idea to the students, I thought three or four might volunteer, as AIDS doesn't have a very high profile in Japan and not many young people are interested. In fact, 23 wanted to go. I think they just wanted to find out about AIDS for themselves. They even organized themselves, finding what must be the cheapest bus fare in Kanto."
Skip says the eight centers are expecting a lot of calls this weekend. "Last year we received 1,299 calls. This year we expect even many more." He is sure because Health and Welfare Ministry statistics, which monitor infection rates nationwide, show Japan is experiencing the highest HIV infection growth rate ever.
When Skip first started volunteering with JHC in 1991, the attitude amongst most non-Japanese was that they would wait until they went home to be tested. Concerns about possible privacy violations and immigration problems made people very wary of testing in Japan.
There's still a lot of confusion about where to go for help and who to talk to. Also, few of the testing centers offer same-day results or counseling. Now JHC, in partnership with Suginami City Office, offers anonymous tests at the Public Health Center in Ogikubo, which gives results the same day. Counseling in English is also available.
"We currently run this testing service in Nagoya and Osaka as well, and we are hoping we will be able to provide the same service in more locations and also in other languages. In the meantime, NGOs like TELL, AMDA and SHARE are doing great work in terms of telephone counseling in different languages," Caitlin says.
Now that Japan has become one of the major centers of Asia's sex industry, sex tours to Southeast Asia are less popular. Skip: "We used to get a lot of calls from housewives who knew what their husbands were up to and didn't want to have sex with them, and (asking) what could they do."
In the last two years, the rate among teens has risen dramatically, with the steepest curve among girls. "Though on the one hand disempowered and unable to demand condom use, the girls are more concerned about their health," Caitlin says. "They're the ones who drag their boyfriends along to get tested."
"We're getting calls from kids as young as junior high," Skip continues. "We also get a lot of calls from foreign teachers who want to teach about HIV issues -- I think there is greater awareness about HIV in the foreign community than amongst the general Japanese population. Despite this, foreigners are still seen as the greater risk. But the reality is that HIV crosses all borders; it doesn't matter if you practice unsafe sex in Roppongi or in the U.S. or in your own hometown -- anywhere, you run the risk of being infected with HIV."
Infection rates in the Asia-Pacific region are rising fast. Caitlin says that in Japan, "some estimates are that infection rates are actually at least five times the official statistics, which only show people who have actually tested positive. Testing rates are very low in Japan, so there are potentially a lot of people out there who are HIV-positive but don't know it."
A lot of non-Japanese believe that if they test positive, they can't stay in Japan. This, Skip says, is untrue. "A full range of medication is available here, and the health system is much better than many countries, including the U.S. It's possible to apply for up to a 100 percent disability allowance. JHC helps people get through the loops of bureaucratic red tape."
There will be a lot of guerrilla action around Dec. 1, with volunteers out on the streets. Caitlin remembers with great affection and admiration a 70-year-old Japanese Catholic nun one previous year handing out condoms from a large basket while dressed in a Winnie-the-Pooh costume.
JHC hotline: From 10 a.m. Saturday (Nov. 26) to 10 p.m. Sunday. Japanese main line (0120) 545-036, English line (03) 5259-0256, fax for hearing-impaired (English and Japanese) (06) 6882-7801
The Japan Times: Nov. 26, 2005
Complacency gives AIDS a helping hand
Saori Kan / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
One day earlier this year, Chizuko Ikegami, a representative of nonprofit organization Place Tokyo, which provides support to HIV-positive people and AIDS patients, received a phone call from the Japanese Society for AIDS Research. "We would like you to become director of our annual conference next year. Are you interested?"
Ikegami had long been a member of the society, but it was the first time that a woman or layman had been offered the post by the society.
"I didn't take it seriously at first, as it seemed too heavy a task for someone who just represented a small, underfunded organization," she said with a laugh.
Despite her modesty, the 58-year-old woman is one of the best-known AIDS activists in the nation. Among other roles, she serves as a member of the metropolitan government's committee on AIDS-related problems.
In the end, Ikegami accepted the offer and her new role indicates that the society realizes the importance of providing support for people fighting HIV/AIDS.
Ikegami established Place Tokyo near Takadanobaba Station in Shinjuku Ward in 1994 when the International AIDS Conference was held in Yokohama.
The organization provides face-to-face or telephone counseling for people with HIV/AIDS. It also runs a discreet facility called NEST, located at an undisclosed location in Tokyo, where sufferers and their family members can meet and talk with others in a similar situation.
Place Tokyo also provides direct support at crucial times, dispatching "Buddies"--volunteer staff members--to assist hospitalized patients during days out from hospital. They also visit patients at home to help them with practical tasks such as housework.
Uniquely in Japan, Place Tokyo has surveyed AIDS patients on the problems they face, and published reports on the basis of their research. They have also published booklets aimed at raising public awareness of the need for AIDS prevention.
"AIDS is a disease anybody who has sex might contract. But it seems people can't think rationally when it comes to sexual topics. It's still difficult for people to talk frankly about the disease, even though more than 20 years have passed since it was first detected," Ikegami said.
Japan is the only developed nation in the world where the number of newly reported AIDS patients is still rising. The number of new HIV/AIDS cases reported in 2004 was 1,165, double that of 10 years before. This marked the first time since the government began keeping such records in 1985 that the number of new infections had exceeded 1,000. The cumulative total number of HIV/AIDS cases ever reported exceeded 10,000 last year.
The increase is caused in part by diminished public attention to the issue, many public health care researchers say. They say interest has fallen steadily since 1996, when the government and drug companies settled lawsuits with patients infected by treatment with HIV-tainted blood products. Over the same period, the so-called "cocktail treatment" that combines three different types of drugs has helped change AIDS from being a "death sentence" to what is often a chronic but manageable disease. This too has given many people the idea that AIDS is no longer a crisis, researchers say.
Ikegami got involved in supporting sufferers in 1982 when she studied sexology at Hawaii University after she graduated from Tokyo University. It was shortly after the first AIDS cases had been reported in the United States in 1981.
Learning from the confusion at some U.S. hospitals--some of which initially refused to treat AIDS patients--Ikegami's doctor colleagues at Hawaii University developed a system to ensure that patients in the region could get fair access to medical treatment.
One day, Ikegami was asked to serve as an interpreter for a Japanese-born man who had developed AIDS. The man wanted to return to Japan to see his family, and also planned to die in the country. But he decided not to, worried about discrimination faced by AIDS patients and their families.
After he told Ikegami that his ex-wife and son lived in Hawaii, she decided to help him to see his son one last time before his death. She arranged their reunion after discussing it with both the man and his ex-wife. Seeing his happy smile when he met his son, Ikegami decided that there needed to be some kind of systematic support for people fighting HIV/AIDS in Japan, too.
"Back then, I strongly felt that people with AIDS were considered 'guilty' while those without the disease were 'innocent,' even though anyone could catch the disease at any time. Something was wrong, I thought. So I wanted to do something to change Japan's society to one where I would feel at ease even if I myself caught the disease," she said.
According to Ikegami, the key to preventing HIV/AIDS from becoming endemic lies with convincing young people to take the threat seriously, since they are becoming ever more sexually active. According to a 2002 study conducted by a teachers' group in Tokyo, in 1984 about 10 percent of third-year high school girls had had sex. That rate has now reached 46 percent and it's a similar story with boys. Over the same period, the percentage of sexually active third-grade boys has risen from 20 percent to 37 percent. Another study, conducted by Masako Kihara, an associate professor at Kyoto University, shows only 40 percent of high school students use condoms when they have sex. It also shows that they tend to change sexual partners more frequently.
"To prevent them from getting infected, adults shouldn't try to avoid talking about sex with their children. They should ensure that their children have the right information to allow them to have safe sex, including knowing how to use a condom properly," Ikegami said.
Fidelity is no guarantee
To promote public awareness about the sexually transmitted disease, some people fighting AIDS have begun talking about their experiences.
Shoko Kitayama, a woman in her late 30s who lives in the Kansai region and works as a local government official in charge of community welfare, was told that she was infected in 1996, just as she was ending a two-year mission as a volunteer public health nurse in Tanzania. She was dating a local man at the time.
"I have to say it was careless for a public health professional to have sex without using a condom. I was just one of those people who thought AIDS would never happen to them," said the slender woman with wavy hair in an interview at her home.
"I really loved the man, and he was the only man I was dating. But it seems many people still believe they will be safe if they have sex with only one partner. I want to say that love and fidelity are no guarantee of safety from HIV/AIDS," she said.
"The number of women found to be HIV-positive during pregnancy health checks is increasing. The rate among pregnant women was 3.61 per 100,000 in 2004," said Shinya Iwamuro, an urologist and official at the Japan Association for Development of Community Medicine. "Many of these women are married and contracted the virus through their husbands."
The doctor has the nickname "Mr. Condom" because of his devotion to educating students about how to use condoms correctly.
Last week, Kitayama, who has published a book Kamisama ga Kureta HIV (HIV--the Gift from God), gave a lecture on her experience at a public middle school in Yokohama.
"Whenever I talk to young students, I tell them that the virus doesn't care how honest people are or how many people they are dating. Sexual morality doesn't matter in terms of protecting yourself from HIV/AIDS and everyone who wants to have sex, including adults, of course, should be aware of that," Kitayama said.
"HIV/AIDS is now manageable with the cocktail treatment. But it still takes a lot of determination to fight the virus and the treatment is very expensive. I want them to know that."
To combat HIV/AIDS, the government is encouraging people to be tested for the virus. However, only 68,774 people were tested last year, barely more than half the 135,674 tested in 1992. What makes people reluctant to have the test is the inconvenience of the testing system. At many public health centers, AIDS tests are available only at fixed times on weekdays, and examinees have to visit the center a second time to get their results. As an option, some public health centers have introduced simpler one-day testing system or begun providing services at night or on holidays.
Nor are tests the whole story. "It's meaningless to only provide AIDS tests," said Hiroshi Hasegawa, representative of JaNP+ (pronounced "jump plus"), a Tokyo-based organization that represents those living with HIV/AIDS.
Hasegawa contracted the virus through homosexual relationships.
"I know some people who have tested positive for the virus, but then didn't immediately see a doctor. One of them didn't go to the hospital for about two years. We need to be more systematic in providing follow-up services."
(Nov. 26, 2005)
'Transamerica' transforms Felicity Hufffman
BY JOHN ANDERSON - New York Newsday
LOS ANGELES -- This writer has long had a crazy movie fantasy: To be hypnotized, have certain memory banks erased, and be able to watch "Psycho" without knowing Janet Leigh is going to take that shower in the first 30 minutes of the film.
No one's gotten to do that since 1960.
Recently, however, there was an experience that might not be precisely comparable, but was as singular. Knowing I was scheduled to see something called "Transamerica" -- and knowing nothing else about it -- I found myself watching a poignant, funny, revealing comedy about a pre-operative transsexual who discovers, on the eve of her re-orientation surgery, that she has a son. The lead actor, if not an actual transsexual, had certainly presented an authentic, honest portrait of a man on the gender fence, full of pathos, pain and well-chosen French sarcasms ("Quel damage ... ").
Only later did I realize the "actor" was Felicity Huffman.
"Will you write about that?" a gleeful Huffman asks, inside an upper-story Hollywood hotel room, which seems part flight deck and part of a lost set for "Black Narcissus." Huffman is looking quite gorgeous -- gauzy skirt swirling around great legs, blue heels, a delicate top and sweater ensemble and her hair blown to blond perfection. We get it: She's counter-programming her own characters -- those of both "Transamerica," (it opens Friday) and "Desperate Housewives," the dizzyingly successful nighttime soap on which she plays hardened corporate creature Lynette. The effect is delicious, regardless of the motive.
A matter of timing
Huffman got the role of "Transamerica's" Bree Osborne -- uptight telemarketer and all-around conservative ("I think she might be a Republican," Huffman says.) -- before "DH" premiered on ABC, and largely because writer-director Duncan Tucker had seen her work on the Off-Broadway stage. "I don't get movie auditions," says Huffman, who is married to actor William H. Macy, with whom she has two young daughters.
When asked, she says she would have taken on "Transamerica," regardless of whether or not she'd been doing "Desperate Housewives" ("which I love," she says in a whisper, as if someone were going to take it away). "It's a brilliant script, a fantastic part for an actor," she says. "But I know what you mean -- 'Would you have been protective of your image?' I can only address it by saying, and I don't want to be self-deprecating, but I'm not a beauty -- it's not my stock in trade, so I really didn't have anything to protect."
She recalls a photo shoot she and her "DH" co-stars did during their first season. "We did a lot of photo shoots. And this photographer" -- she adopts an Italian accent -- "he said, 'Hey, you know, on TV you are so old ... but here you are .... Hey look! She's not so old....'
"It's good I'm not a crazy actress. I would have been outta there."
Huffman took the "Transamerica" role of Bree Osborne -- unplanned parent (it seems there was this drunken night at college) -- dead seriously.
"When I got the part, which was shocking and surprising, I didn't know how to bust into it," she says. "Just the scale of it felt enormous -- the physicality, the turmoil, everything else. So I first had to break it down emotionally to figure out what the internal journey was. And I think it's a story about figuring out who you really are. I know that sounds trite, but I think that's what it is we're all trying to figure out."
She had the good fortune to meet Calpernia Addams and Andrea James, transgendered film producers with the company Deep Stealth. After reading "everything I could find," she said, she called them up.
"I said, 'Hi ... my name is Felicity ... and I'm doing this little independent movie ... and I have about six weeks to prepare ... and could you help me?' And they opened their house to me, and I went over and heard all their stories -- 'What was it like when you dressed like a woman?' 'What was it like when you told your parents?' 'What was it like growing up?' 'What was the surgery like?'"
Said James: "I've worked with many actors over the years, so it was a real treat to watch her process. Felicity asked really incisive questions about the essential truths of this character, and then expressed them with all sorts of subtle, nonverbal cues. I also work with a lot of people on finding a female voice, so it was interesting to watch her find something much lower and fuller than her current voice."
Praise for the performance
James, who appears at the beginning of "Transamerica" as a vocal coach, compared what Huffman did to an actual gender transition. "Her hard work has already earned her a best actress award at Tribeca for this role, and I have high hopes for additional recognition once the film is released theatrically," she said. "I loved the feel of the film.... It's great to see a film cover trans themes with humanity and humor, rather than pity and ridicule, and only an actor of Felicity's caliber can pull that off."
Huffman said that the mechanics of Bree are complex, as is the role: She is not, the actress said, playing a character who is playing a character. She's playing a character whose identity is in flux.
"I know it gets a little convoluted," Huffman said. "It's kind of a pastry wrapped up in itself, because I'm a woman playing a man playing a woman. But Bree's not pretending to be anyone. She's a transgendered woman, which means she was born with the wrong genitalia. She's becoming a woman physically, and feels like she's a woman inside and has been her whole life. Like she tells her mother. 'You know, you never had a son.'"
Huffman developed enormous sympathy for the plight of the transgendered. ("one of the last minority groups that it's perfectly all right to ridicule") in the course of researching the role.
"I went to some transgender conventions," Huffman said. "One of the conventions was at a hotel, where people would drive up in cabs or their car, and then they walk from their car to the hotel. And I was standing with this woman who sort of escorted me around and we watched as this woman walked in and my escort said, 'You see that walk? That 40-foot walk she just did? It's excruciating.' Because she's out in the world and she's not comfortable until she gets in the room where people accept her. I thought, 'That's how Bree walks through her day.'"
And even though Bree Osborne at one point tells her psychiatrist, "Isn't it funny how plastic surgery can cure mental illness," an operation isn't a cure-all either. "You have to change your mind-set," Huffman said. "And if you can't change that, it doesn't matter what happens underneath your skirt."
John Anderson is a regular contributor to Newsday.
AI Index: EUR 37/002/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 318
25 November 2005
Poland: LGBT rights under attack
Amnesty International is concerned about a climate of intolerance in Poland against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, characterised by the banning of public events organized by the LBGT community, openly homophobic language used by some highly placed politicians, and incitement of homophobic hatred by some right-wing groupings. Against this backdrop, Amnesty International also notes with concern the recent abolition of the government office responsible for promotion of equal treatment for sexual minorities.
On 15 November 2005, the mayor of the city of Poznań, Ryszard Grobelny, banned a public event known as the Equality March which had been organized by a number of Polish feminist and LGBT organizations and was set to take place on 19 November. According to the organizers, the Equality March was intended to provide a platform for discussion about tolerance, anti-discrimination and respect for the rights of sexual minorities.
The mayor issued the banning order due to "security concerns" and an alleged "threat to the Poznań residents". However, it has been reported that security issues, including changing the route of the march in order to comply with security requirements, had already been agreed between the municipality and the march organizers. Amnesty International is concerned that the decision to ban this march, as with other previous instances, was dictated by intolerance towards the members of the LGBT community in Poland rather than purely security considerations.
Despite the ban, a few hundred people gathered together on 20 November for a demonstration. They were reportedly harassed and intimidated by members of a right-wing grouping known as All Polish Youth (Młodzież Wszechpolska), who allegedly shouted "Let's gas the fags" and "We'll do to you what Hitler did with Jews". The police intervened towards the end of the march in order to disperse it, reportedly roughly handling several individuals, and arrested and interrogated over 65 people, who were later released.
Amnesty International is concerned that the events in Poznań are not a one-off event, but part of a series of bans on events by the LGBT community. The Equality March in Poznań in November 2004 was interrupted when the police failed to provide protection to demonstrators from the members of the All Polish Youth who blocked the event; the Equality Parades in the capital, Warsaw, in June 2004 and again May 2005, were banned.
When he refused for the second year running to authorize the Equality Parade in Warsaw in May 2005, the then mayor of the city, Lech Kaczyński of the Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwośc) party -- who was later elected the President of Poland -- held that such an event would be "sexually obscene" and offensive to other people's religious feelings. The improvised parade still took place on 10 June, gathering more than 2,500 participants. Less than a week after that, the mayor authorized the so-called "normality" parade, during which members of the All Polish Youth reportedly demonstrated on the streets of Warsaw and shouted slogans inciting intolerance and homophobia. In September 2005, a Warsaw court ruled that the mayor's decision to ban the Equality Parade was illegal.
During the year other political figures were also reported to have made openly homophobic statements, including that that if a homosexual "tries to infect others with their homosexuality, then the state must intervene in this violation of freedom", calling for "no tolerance for homosexuals and deviants" and: "Let's not mistake the brutal propaganda of homosexual attitudes for calls for tolerance. For them our rule will indeed mean a dark night."
Given this climate with regard to the LGBT community in Poland, Amnesty International is concerned about the recent abolition of the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for the Equality of Men and Women, which was responsible for promotion of equal treatment of sexual minorities. The abolition of the Office makes Poland the only European Union (EU) country without a statutory equality watchdog and puts into question its compliance with the EU legislation on prohibition of discrimination. In 2004, the UN Human Rights Committee had welcomed the appointment of the Plenipotentiary and "the extension of the Plenipotentiary's competence to issues relating not only to discrimination on the basis of sex but also on grounds of [...] sexual orientation." This was in the context of the Human Rights Committee's concern that the right of sexual minorities not to be discriminated against was not fully recognized in Poland, and that discriminatory acts and attitudes against people on the ground of sexual orientation were not being adequately investigated and punished. The Committee recommended providing adequate training to law enforcement and judicial officials in order to sensitize them to the rights of sexual minorities and called for explicit prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the Polish law.
International law prohibits discrimination on any grounds and encourages states to introduce legislation that protects individuals from incitement to hatred. In particular, both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms oblige states parties to guarantee all individuals the enjoyment of their human rights without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Poland is a signatory to both these instruments and is fully bound by their provisions.
Amnesty International calls on the Polish authorities to fulfil these obligations under international human rights law, including by explicitly prohibiting discrimination against sexual minorities, and investigating and penalizing all public expressions of incitement of hatred and intolerance against sexual minorities. Members of the government and other leading politicians should not only refrain from public homophobic remarks, but exercise leadership to ensure that the fundamental rights to freedom from discrimination, freedom of expression and freedom of association are actively promoted, and work to build a society where they can be enjoyed by all.
ミルトン・ダイアモンド教授が「ジェンダーフリー支持」を明言 - mascka dot orgブログ
「ブレンダと呼ばれた少年」復刊問題 - TransNews
高校生へ「経験早まらないで」 （2005年11月25日 読売新聞）
総 長 談 話
神社本庁総長 矢田部 正 巳
『話せる環境』がエイズ防ぐ 支援ＮＰＯ訴え (東京 2005/11/25)
エイズウイルス（ＨＩＶ）の感染者増に歯止めがかからない。今年四月には、国内のＨＩＶ感染者とエイズ患者の累計が一万人を超えた。先進国でエイズ患者が増え続けているのは日本だけ。世界エイズデー（十二月一日）を前に名古屋市で開かれた講演会で、ＨＩＶ感染者を支援するＮＰＯ法人「ぷれいす東京」の池上千寿子代表は「性や体について安心して語り合える環境をつくることが大切」と訴えた。 （坂口 千夏）