Guardian Media, 7/30/2012
Mara Moreira lives in a country where the policy for combating Aids has won international acclaim. But 18 years after she was diagnosed as HIV positive, she is deeply worried. Moreira, 36, believes Brazil has lost its way in the struggle against Aids and that the current strategy is flawed. “We are facing a crisis,” she says. “Because of the false idea that the epidemic is under control and that all is well.” She is not alone, with many campaigners and analysts raising concerns both about the effectiveness of treatment and sexual health awareness campaigns. In 1996, Brazil was the first developing country to commit to free and universal access to the anti-retroviral drugs needed to treat HIV. It has also challenged patents on key treatments to ensure access to cheaper generic medicines. With high-profile safe sex campaigns and free distribution of condoms at events such as carnivals, Brazil was praised for its approach. However, with Aids patients living longer and the number of people infected still growing, critics say the provision of anti-retroviral drugs is not enough. According to government estimates, 250,000 Brazilians are unaware they are HIV-positive. Pedro Chequer, UNAids co-ordinator in Brazil, says Brazil must increase its efforts to reach these people while there is still time to treat them. “The Brazilian Aids Programme must be revisited. If we stay on the same path, there is no way we will reach universal coverage,” he said.