Brazil and the changing meanings of ‘universal access’ to antiretrovirals during the early twenty-first century

Authored by: Marcos Cueto

Routledge Handbook on the Politics of Global Health

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138238596
eBook ISBN: 9781315297255
Adobe ISBN:


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In the mid-1990s, antiretrovirals (ARVs) and Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) revolutionised the history of AIDS treatment. They were not a cure but could turn the disease into a manageable chronic condition. However, they were expensive (about US$12,000 per person per year). Global health organisations, including the World Bank, discouraged these treatments in developing countries as ‘non-cost-effective’ interventions. Brazilians disagreed. Dozens of Brazilians, including members of NGOs and officers of the Ministry of Health, participated in the 1996 International AIDS meeting in Vancouver where ARVs were announced, and upon their return home demanded their use in Brazil’s strong public health system (Nunn, 2009).

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