Brazil makes HIV prevention drug available for free to at-risk groups

World Today

Brazil began offering a HIV prevention drug for free to at-risk populations as a state policy.  It is the first country in Latin America to adopt the program that aims to offer a new prevention method and reduce rising infections among youths.

CGTN’s Lucrecia Franco reports from Rio de Janeiro.

The blue pill can drastically reduce the risk of contracting HIV. It’s called Truvada. It’s manufactured in the United States and is available for free in Brazil. Valdilea Veloso,  who coordinates the adoption of the pill under a program known as PrEP, or Pre-exposure prophylaxis, says it targets vulnerable populations.

“In Brazil, we have a HIV epidemic concentrated in men that have sex with men, transsexual women, transvestites and sex workers and those are the target of the PReP, “Veloso said.

Brazil’s Health Ministry invested $1.9 million to buy 2.5 million Truvada pills to meet the demand during the program’s first year. Thiago Santos, who is gay and participated in a drug trial for four years approves of the drug.

“Besides security, I felt free and safe not only with  my life but also with the lives of those that I interact with.” 

If taken daily, he said the pill protects HIV negative people from getting infected. Brazil’s anti-AIDS activists hope that the drug will help reduce the number of infections, especially in a country where the virus is spreading fast among young people.

“The Truvada pill will not replace condoms,” said Regina Bueno, an activist with the group Pela Vidda. “Nothing replaces condoms but it is just one more option to avoid HIV infection.”

According to UN AIDS, cases in Brazil nearly tripled from 2006 to 2015 among men aged 15 to 19. Just in 2016, nearly 48,000 new cases were reported.  The pill is now being offered in 22 cities to eligible Brazilians like Thiago, who hope Truvada will be  a  lifeline in HIV prevention.