Context: After decades of debate, the oral contraceptive pill was legalized in Japan in June 1999. Because the pill had been unavailable up until then, little is known about the public's knowledge about, attitudes toward and intentions to use the pill.
Methods: In a nationwide probability sample, 630 women and men were interviewed in their homes in March 1999. Respondents were asked a range of questions to gauge their knowledge about and attitudes toward the pill.
Results: Most respondents (79%) could identify both the name and purpose of the birth control pill. Roughly the same proportion of respondents held an overall positive impression (44%) as held a negative impression (42%) of the pill, and 14% were undecided about the method. The pill's high level of effectiveness in pregnancy prevention was the most common reason for having a favorable impression of it (47%). Women were more concerned about side effects than were men, and they also knew more about the pill's potential side effects than did men. Only 12% of respondents said they intended to use the pill if it were approved. Roughly one-quarter (23-26%) did not correctly identify the pill's inability to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Conclusions: Legalization of oral contraceptives in Japan has led to an urgent need to educate both men and women on the inability of the pill to protect against STDs, including HIV Policymakers and providers need to recognize the importance of encouraging dual method use in Japan.