In response to the increasing number of syphilis cases reported in Japan, the Japanese government is launching a prevention campaign that will include Sailor Moon as a spokesperson for sexual education.
Syphilis, or what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to as “the great imitator,” can result in serious long-term complications if left untreated. This is because the infection can cause a number of different symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose.
With a whopping 4,259 syphilis cases reported in Japan as of early December 2016, and the number steadily increasing, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare are eagerly searching for ways to cut these numbers down, and what better way than to seek the help of the protector of the Moon Kingdom?
According to Japan Today, this number is 77% higher than the 2,412 reported cases at the same time the year prior, and seven times higher than the number of cases that were reported ten years ago. Although the numbers are notably increasing, the reasons as to why this is happening are uncertain.
The news outlet shares that heterosexual intercourse may account for the transmission of the infection, but also notes that despite having been a rarity in Japan in the past, cases of transmission from mother-to-child also appear to be increasing in number. In addition, the article also cites that “changes in sexual behavior among youth and adult entertainment businesses” may contribute to the rise in cases. In fact, cases appearing in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward account for “40% of Tokyo’s total, and 20% of cases across the whole of Japan,” presumably due to the fact that a number of adult entertainment businesses operate within that area.
According to Quartz, this past year, the infection rate rose much quicker for women than it did for men; “the female rate increased 1.9 times from the previous year compared to 1.7 times for men.” Those who are thought to be at increased risk? Women in their late 20’s.
In response to the increase in cases, the health ministry’s research team has been putting their efforts towards finding ways to prevent transmission. Makoto Onishi, a section chief at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said, “We intend to clarify which groups of people are at most risk and stop the spread of the infection by educating about how to prevent and cure the disease.”
What better way to spread syphilis education than by enlisting the help of one of anime’s most popular female characters? The Japanese government will be assisted by Sailor Moon, who VIZ Media describes as “the quintessential magical girl phenomenon.” Created by manga artist Naoko Takeuchi, Sailor Moon is a 14-year-old girl, who, accompanied by her Sailor Guardians, has been “chosen by destiny” to fight evil, or in this case, to fight syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The health ministry announced its collaboration with Takeuchi in a press release back in November, sharing that it will launch a prevention campaign featuring the teenage “guardian of love and justice,” with a particular focus on syphilis. Condoms and educational leaflets featuring Sailor Moon will be featured in the campaign, as well as educational posters encouraging individuals to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. The campaign cleverly tailors Sailor Moon’s tag line, “In the name of the moon, I punish you,” to read “If you do not get tested, you will be punished!”
The health ministry hopes that with these efforts, more individuals will receive education on safe sexual practices and that this will work to reduce the number of syphilis cases, as well as other sexually transmitted disease cases, within Japan.