Rise in HIV infections leads Japanese government to support Pride

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A small but happy crowd of 3,000 people marched through the streets of Tokyo at the weekend as the city celebrated its sixth Pride event.

For the first time, a Japanese government department took part alongside city officials and many colourful floats.

The Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry took part to highlight the dangers of AIDS.

The number of infections in Japan continues to rise, partly because being gay is still a taboo within society.

2005 saw the number of new infections rise to 914. The Pride event was also a call to LGBT people to come out of the closet to fight against discrimination.

More than 5,000 people gathered in a park after the march to continue the party, but in a city of 12.5 million it is clear that the majority of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people prefer to remain in the closet.

Earlier this year the first ever out candidate for the country’s parliament failed to win a seat.

Kanako Otsuji, 32, had conducted a colourful and positive campaign for office, at one stage holding a marriage ceremony with her partner.

She generated intense interest from the national and international press.

She was a candidate for the Democratic Party of Japan, who took control of the upper house in a crushing election defeat for Prime Minister Shinze Abe.

Ryuhei Kawada, a 31-year-old HIV-positive activist who contracted the disease through a blood transfusion, won a seat.

Homosexual male sexual conduct is not illegal, but some regions (prefectures) have an unequal age of consent. The age for heterosexual consent is 13.