Brazil's Grass-Roots Fight Against AIDS
January 9, 2006
Brazilians with AIDS now receive better treatment than some U.S. patients, according to John Iverson, co-founder of ACT-UP in Oakland and Berkeley, Calif. "In Brazil, the treatment is more universal than it is in the United States," Iverson said, noting that 2,187 people in nine states who have qualified to receive free drugs are on waiting lists due to a lack of government funding.
In the early days of the epidemic, Brazil's government largely ignored AIDS. Change began when Herbet de Souza, a famous intellectual known as Betinho, and his two brothers, all hemophiliacs, contracted HIV. Betinho formed ABIA, one of the earliest advocacy groups. Brazil's military ruled the country from 1964 through 1985, and the fledgling AIDS movement linked with prodemocracy forces.
In 1992, the World Bank predicted the nation would have 1.2 million AIDS cases by 2000. But such dire forecasts were foiled by the combination of free health care, free medications, and grass-roots prevention campaigns. Brazil's AIDS death rate has fallen by half and its AIDS-related hospitalization by 80 percent since 1996.
Noting that two-thirds of its AIDS budget goes to buy three drugs made by Merck, Abbott Laboratories, and Gilead Sciences, Brazilian health ministry officials have demanded lower prices. Under international law, the nation can declare an emergency, manufacture the drugs as generics, and pay a minimal royalty to the patent holders. The Bush administration has threatened trade sanctions if Brazil issues compulsory licenses. In October, Abbott agreed to reduce by almost half the cost of its Kaletra. Negotiations continue with the other two companies.
U.S. activists have called on America to follow Brazil's example of demanding lower prices and distributing the drugs free. "Brazil has opened the eyes of the world to the issue of access to medicine," said Anne Christine d'Adesky, executive director of the group AIDS, Medicine and Miracles.
St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
01.08.06; Reese Erlich
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.