The world director of the United Nations Joint Program for HIV/AIDS (Unaids), Peter Piot, says that Brazil has one of the world's best programs for the prevention and treatment of AIDS. Piot made his comment at the Brazilian AIDS Congress in Recife, Pernambuco.
Piot said the Brazilian program, which gives AIDS victims free antiretroviral drugs, has been successful in halting the advance of the disease and reducing the deaths it causes.
"Brazil is the first developing nation to do this," said Piot. The positive results were obtained thanks to a broad, coordinated involvement of civil society and all levels of government, he added.
According to Piot, Brazil is an emerging nation with great experience in combating AIDS that can be shared with other countries, especially in Africa where the disease continues to expand.
Piot declared that the Brazilian program has shown that community-level involvement is essential if an AIDS program is to be successful. He said it was necessary to go beyond condoms, sexual abstention and monogamy. The answer is investments in education and human rights, breaking the vicioius cycle of poverty, said Piot.
The 2004 Report on the Global Aids Epidemic also commended the advances made by Brazil in the area of preventing the disease.
Released July 6 in Brasília by the United Nations HIV/Aids Program (UNAids), the document cites the increase in condom consumption as a positive item.
According to the Ministry of Health's National STD/Aids Program, condom consumption grew from 150 million in 1994 to over 600 million in 2003.
The report also highlights Brazil's progress in the treatment of carriers of the disease. Of the 400 thousand people around the world who have access to anti-retroviral medicines, 140 thousand live in Brazil.
The Brazilian government spends US$ 229.6 million (R$ 700 million) annually on Aids treatment; 60% of this total is used to purchase medications.
"This policy of furnishing universal treatment to carriers of the virus made it possible to reduce mortality by 50% and enabled the National Health System (SUS) to save around US$ 2 million (R$ 6.1 million) in the past five years," affirms the Director of the Ministry's STD/Aids Program, Alexandre Grangeiro.
The report also underscores Brazil's leadership in cooperative efforts among Southern hemisphere countries, especially those in Latin America and Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, which receive donations of medicines from Brazil to treat the disease.
"Brazil's example to the world is the big contribution made by civil society in controlling Aids. The partnership between governments and non-governmental organizations (NGO's) and the innovative perspective of the NGO's in terms of making new technologies available permitted the country to make very significant progress, especially in the area of prevention," proclaims the Director of UNAids in Brazil, Pedro Chequer.
There are currently approximately 600 thousand carriers of the HIV virus in Brazil.
Despite official praise, NGOs are organizing demonstrations in 12 states in an effort to get local officals to pay more attention to the needs of HIV-positive people.
Calls are being made for improved medical attention, as well as more condoms, hospital beds and drugs for so-called opportunistic diseases that plague people with AIDS, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.
August 26 was National AIDS Combat Day (Dia Nacional de Articulação dos Movimentos de Luta Contra a Aids) which was marked by the announcement that there has been a sharp rise in AIDS cases among poor women.
François Figueroa, who coordinates the Sexually Transmitted Disease/ AIDS program in the state of Pernambuco, says the increase stems from the fact that poor women are not aware of prevention techniques.