THE GLOBE AND MAIL
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The scene plays out every day in the gleaming offices of this AIDS organization. Anxious walk-ins, most of them gay or transgender youth, tug their hoodies over their heads and come seeking a rapid HIV test on a residential street. And with every cheek swabbed, this country takes another small step toward achieving a very big goal.
Brazil has a long history of innovation on HIV and is held up as the great developing country success story in fighting AIDS.
It had national free public AIDS treatment before anywhere else, and it had huge success enlisting gay men, sex workers and drug users in the fight to stop the virus. But with a new plan launched late last year, Brazil is poised to go one step further. It wants to stop the spread of HIV by putting every single person who has the virus on treatment, whether they are sick or not.
The concept – known as “treatment as prevention” – has Canadian roots. It was pioneered by, among others, Julio Montaner, a leading AIDS physician in British Columbia and former president of the International AIDS Society who credits it with the fact that Vancouver closed its AIDS ward earlier this year. It’s policy now in B.C. – and while Canada as a whole hasn’t adopted it, China, Australia, France and the U.S. all want to use the model.
But Brazil has gone furthest, and with 720,000 people living with HIV, this country has taken the concept to a whole new scale, once again blazing an ambitious path in the response to AIDS.
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