TOKYO (AP) _ The number of people in Japan testing positive for HIV or developing AIDS in 1999 reached a record high of 780, the Health and Welfare Ministry said.

A total of 491 people tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in 1999, up 16 percent from 1998, the ministry said.

Also, 289 cases of full-blown AIDS were reported, up 25 percent, the ministry's AIDS surveillance committee said in a report released Tuesday.

The report also said that the number of people tested for HIV and AIDS in 1999 dropped to 48,218, down 5,000 from 1998. It also said that a record 63 people applying to donate blood were found to be HIV-positive in 1999.

Some here say that the increasing number of blood donation applicants found HIV-positive reflects a growing tendency to use the screening as an alternative test instead of regular HIV testing and counseling.

Although the number of people with HIV or AIDS is low in Japan compared with other developed countries, social stigma attached to them is strong and many face discrimination.