The President´s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, is sometimes describide as George W. Bush´s signature policy achievement – a rare bright spot on decidedly fraugh record, especially overseas. Active in more than 50 countries, many of them in sub-saharan Africa, the program has been essencial in th effort to bring the continet´s HIV/AIDS epidemic under control.
In June, infectious disease specialist Felipe Pires was at a loss. He didn’t know how much medication to give his HIV-positive patients in Porto Alegre, a coastal city in southern Brazil with the highest rate of AIDS in Brazil — more than twice that of other major cities. His supply of viral load tests, which measure the amount of HIV genetic material in the blood, was being rationed by federal health officials. “Miscalculating could make my patients irreversibly sicker faster, he told OZY. This new conservative political muscle has rolled back some of Brazil’s advances in confronting AIDS. Prevention campaigns that featured sex workers — a key HIV-affected population — were canceled, as was the public school program that taught openly about safe sex. Government research now shows condom use is decreasing among young Brazilians, which has consequences beyond HIV: Health ministry reports of syphilis rose from 1,249 cases in 2010 to 65,878 new cases in 2015. Meanwhile, what Richard Parker, from Brazilian Interdisciplinary Aids Association (ABIA), calls Brazil’s “triumphalist narrative” led international foundations to begin defunding prevention programs on the assumption that the health crisis was under control.
The Latin American and Caribean Council of Non-governamental Organizations Working on HIV/Aids Services (Laccaso) issued a letter publicizing its concern in relation to the critical situation faced by people living with HIV/AIDS in Venezuela.
The idea that the end of AIDS is near has been announced recently in international events on the disease, but it creates a “smokescreen” for governments to hide budget cuts to programs and the shortage of the latest antiretroviral drugs. According to American anthropologist Richard Parker, 60, Full Professor Emeritus at Columbia University, New York, despite real strides in AIDS treatment, huge challenges remain, like the fact that 50% of patients lack access to treatment. The Director and President of the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association says that even Brazil’s successful HIV/AIDS program has begun to lose strength, with difficulties in incorporating the more expensive drugs, besides logistics problems.