Nationwide HIV support network set up

by Yasushi Azuma

A nationwide network to support people infected with HIV and people with full-blown AIDS has been established by Hiroshi Hasegawa, who is HIV-positive.

The Japanese Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (JaNP+) will help people suffering from HIV and AIDS receive medical treatment and will take on the deep-rooted prejudice and discrimination they face, Hasegawa said earlier this week.

“We want to give information to as many people infected with HIV as possible because they have lives to lead,” Hasegawa said.

“The most painful thing about the illness is that the person (with the virus) cannot speak out about it, even with relatives. This is different from diseases such as cancer and diabetes.”

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, more than 5,000 people infected with the virus are receiving medical treatment in Japan, and 614 new infections of HIV were reported in 2001.

Hasegawa, 49, emphasized the difference between Tokyo and rural areas, saying patients in Tokyo can choose from several hospitals offering treatment and have opportunities to network with others infected with the virus.

In rural areas, as HIV positive people may lack access to such facilities and opportunities, they may feel isolated, he said.

“Especially in rural areas, people infected with HIV experience unpleasant treatment from people with ideas about AIDS that are 10 to 15 years old, despite progress in medical treatment,” he said.

JaNP+ plans to publish a magazine to provide information on medical treatment and other topics related to HIV. It will also provide the same information through its Web site and promote information exchanges, Hasegawa said.

The Tokyo-based group will additionally advise people infected with HIV about job hunting and other issues related to their everyday lives, he said.

Hasegawa said some 30 HIV-infected people are members of the network, but expects the number to increase.

Hasegawa, a freelance editor, was infected with HIV in 1992 and has been involved in activities to support people infected with HIV and people with AIDS since 1993.

One of the three other founders of the group is Ryuhei Kawada, a high-profile plaintiff in a damages suit against the government, which has been settled. Kawada, a hemophiliac, was infected with the virus when he was administered tainted blood products.

Hasegawa also said at a news conference in Tokyo that he wants to raise public awareness on the HIV/AIDS issue through the network, prior to the upcoming Seventh International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, to be held in Kobe in 2003.

JaNP+ will act in coordination with Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GNP+) and its regional chapter, Asia-Pacific Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS (APN+), Hasegawa added.