The rapid spread of AIDS in the past decade has reached a level that has confounded and alarmed the health establishment in Japan.

Infections that had stayed at infinitesimal levels are surging at rates similar to developing countries, and some experts say the real number of Japanese with HIV or AIDS is two to four times the official toll.

Many also fear a silent AIDS epidemic is brewing among the nation's sexually active junior high and high schoolers. Other sexually transmitted diseases — chlamydia, genital herpes, gonorrhea and the human papillomavirus, or HPV — are also on the rise.