Human rights activist Etsuko Kawada, the mother of an outspoken HIV-infected man who contracted the virus through tainted blood coagulants, announced Tuesday her decision to run for the House of Representatives seat of Joji Yamamoto in the Oct. 22 by-election in Tokyo.
Kawada, 51, said she will run for Tokyo’s No. 21 constituency in eastern Tokyo as an independent candidate to fill the seat left vacant by Yamamoto, who resigned as a Lower House member earlier this month in the wake of his arrest for allegedly pocketing some 20 million yen of his secretary’s salary paid from the government coffers. Kawada lives in Kodaira, adjacent to the constituency.
Kawada’s son Ryuhei, 24, was the first HIV-infected plaintiff in a 1989 Tokyo HIV class-action lawsuit who went public with his disease, prompting wider public support for the legal battle against drug makers that distributed tainted blood products and the government that approved the drugs.
His mother, who served as the deputy head of the plaintiffs’ group in the HIV civil suit, said during a press conference at a hall in central Tokyo: “Many young people have no interest in politics because they feel they cannot change politics anyway.
“But I learned through the HIV suit that it is important for each one of us to stand up and take action.”
Kawada said, if elected, that she will promote the disclosure of information, a key element in their legal battle.
She emphasized the importance of information disclosure, referring to recent cases such as Snow Brand Milk Products Co.’s attempts to cover up a bacteria-tainted milk scandal and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s concealment of vehicle recalls over a period of decades.
Ryuhei, who also appeared at the press conference, said he will do his utmost to support his mother in the election campaign.
Astuo Nakamura, a popular actor and writer who is now an Upper House member and head of Party Sakigake, persuaded Kawada to run in the election. He said in the press conference that he wants to prove that an ordinary citizen such as Kawada can win an election without the support of large political parties.
Ryuhei contracted HIV through unheated blood coagulants when he was treated for hemophilia at Teikyo University hospital in the mid-1980s.
The activities of the Kawadas shed light on the HIV fiasco, and they increasingly won public support, which eventually led to the exposure of negligence by the Health and Welfare Ministry that led to HIV being spread among hemophiliacs.
The suit was eventually settled in March 1996 with an agreement that each victim would receive 45 million yen in a lump sum to be paid by the government and five pharmaceutical firms that had sold the imported unheated blood products tainted by HIV.
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