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Despite a high rate of condom use, the Japanese population lacks knowledge and awareness on the use of contraceptives in the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, according to the head of an expert international advisory panel on sexual and reproductive health.

“While many other countries in the world, both developed and developing, are trying to promote condom use for prevention of STIs and HIV, you (Japan) have this high rate of condom use, but it would appear that it is primarily for contraceptive reasons,” said Helen Randera-Rees, cochair of the International Medical Advisory Panel.

Randera-Rees made the remarks at a news conference — joined by five others of the 11-member IMAP — held at a Tokyo hotel to mark the conclusion late last week of a three-day meeting of IMAP under the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Randera-Rees, a representative of South Africa, said that Japan, unlike its fellow developed countries, appears to have “no easy access” to modern contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives — methods of preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex.

The IMAP members attribute this lack to the high price of contraceptives in Japan.

IMAP member Anna Glasier of Scotland noted “tests and examinations” required in Japan as a culprit in further raising the cost of birth control pills, pointing out that in her country, such procedures are “considered totally unnecessary.”

“And this idea that the pill is dangerous and you have to do all these tests to make it safer . . . there is no evidence to support that,” Glasier said.

Randera-Rees said Japan shares a common concern with other Western countries in terms of a declining birthrate and the issue of small family units, in stark contrast to developing countries, which are beset with increasingly growing populations.

She added that from discussions with her Japanese counterparts, she sees that Japan’s youth are facing increasing rates of STIs, but still have the prevalent perception that condoms are used for contraception, and not for the prevention of STIs.

Randera-Rees describes the situation in Japan — which is one of the original members of the IPPF — as “unique and interesting,” in terms of sexual and reproductive health, and expressed hope that the Japanese population will move toward adopting widespread contraceptive use to counter the serious issues of STIs and HIV.

The 39th Meeting of IPPF IMAP, which began Wednesday, gathered the IMAP panel of 11 representative top medical experts in the field of sexual and reproductive health from countries including the United States, Australia, Ghana and Bangladesh.

These experts are tasked with reviewing and compiling current, practical guidelines to deal with sexual and reproductive health in member countries, said Randera-Rees.

She also stressed that current knowledge must always be reflected in the “scientific and clinical standards” adopted by these countries.

Founded in 1952, IPPF is a nongovernmental organization that addresses issues of sexual and reproductive health, including family planning, and works through its representative family planning associations in over 180 countries around the world.

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