Brazil Tames AIDS With Needles, Condoms
May 22, 2002
Up to 25 percent fewer Brazilians contracted AIDS last year than in 2000 -- a sign that a controversial program distributing condoms and needles is working, the government said Monday. The estimated number of new AIDS cases in Latin America's chief anti-AIDS pioneer likely dropped to around 15,000 last year, down from 20,000 the year before, according to government estimates issued ahead of a final tally.
Thanks to free AIDS drug cocktails, bold safe sex campaigns and treatment for drug addicts, Brazil has kept infection rates to less than 1 percent of the adult population. That defies dire forecasts from the 1980s on how the epidemic would ravage the world's largest country of Catholics, for whom condom use is officially banned. Brazil also enraged the pharmaceutical industry by developing copies of patented drugs, then using the copies as bargain chips -- without putting the drugs on the market -- to force big firms to slash prices.
Paulo Roberto Teixeira, a top government AIDS official, said that new AIDS cases in men caused by intravenous drug use fell to 14 percent in the first nine months of last year compared with 19 percent in all of 2000. "Intravenous drug users were the biggest problem for our program. The numbers had stabilized up to now, and now, for the first time, they are falling," Teixeira said. "It was a controversial campaign, difficult to execute, but it shows some undeniable positive results," he said.
The program appeared to break some taboos in a region where politicians strike tough poses against drug abuse and religious leaders typically condemn condom use. While the declining overall trend underscores Brazil's winning fight against HIV, Teixeira said the number of cases among heterosexual women continued to grow, especially those who are married or have a long-term partner.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.