Summer's here and that means an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, with older Japanese women particularly susceptible, according to women's weekly Shukan Josei.
"There's a tendency in Japan to regard STDs as young people's diseases, or ailments that hit people who play around a lot. STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. That means anybody who has sex can contract them. It's those sexually active people who think they have no chance of getting an STD or believe they're immune to them who are in the most dangerous situation," gynecologist and clinical psychologist Kazue Yoshino tells Shukan Josei.
Japan is the only industrialized nation where HIV contraction is increasing, but other STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, genital warts and crabs are almost "national diseases," the women's weekly says, adding that each of the above ailments, bar the clap and chlamydia, is spreading to chronic proportions.
"In a worst-case scenario, STDs can lead to death and also cause cancer or sterilization. It's a sad fact that people simply don't know enough about STDs at this stage," Yoshino says. "STDs aren't diseases that strike only those doing something special, they are a real threat to ordinary people leading ordinary lives."
While most of the more common STDs are spreading in Japan, physicians say the known figures could be as little as one-tenth of the actual contraction rates. They say the rapid recent increase in venereal disease can be blamed on such factors as the growing numbers of men and women who have multiple sex partners, as well as oral sex becoming generally practiced, but mostly because people who haven't realized they've picked up something going around bonking others and passing on their disease without realizing it.
Gynecologist Yoshino points out that STDs are spreading particularly nastily among women in their 30s or older.
"Many of these women are having sex less often than they used to, have finished having children and don't see a gynecologist as frequently as they once did," Yoshino says. "They don't consider themselves a chance of having contracted an STD and because they're not having check-ups, it means it takes longer to find and treat them if they are infected."
Late ZARD vocalist Izumi Sakai was being treated at the time of her death for cancer of the cervix, a disease often caused by an STD called the human papillomavirus.
"STDs can cause serious damage to the body in the form of cancer or sterilization," gynecologist Yoshino warns Shukan Josei. "That's why everybody who thinks they have nothing to do with STDs really should check to make sure."