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Aids Wednesday, 22 September, 1999, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Aids success 'generates sex risks'
brazil teens
Campaigns focus on teens as more have sex younger
Brazil's success in averting an Aids epidemic may have led to people taking more health risks when they have sex, the country's government has said.

Aids Special Report
A study commissioned by its health ministry found that three out of four Brazilians did not use condoms, they increasingly had sex before they were 15 and nearly half of young people drank before sex - increasing the likelihood they would take chances.

Recent surveys have shown that Aids has been well controlled in the country - in the 1980s and early 1990s incidence grew exponentially, yet Brazil now has only half the number of cases predicted a decade ago.

Pedro Chequer, the co-ordinator of Brazil's National Programme on AIDS, fears that the policy of distributing anti-Aids drugs for free had been so successful that people had become complacent.

Prevention 'the only cure'

"We are worried that the population is relaxing the prevention methods with the understanding that the problem no longer exists," he said.

"This is an alert for the population to remember that the only cure that exists today is prevention."

aids drugs
Aids drugs are available free in Brazil
The United Nations World AIDS campaign was launched in Brazil last year, and focused on young people.

One of its aims is to use sex education at school so children see condom use as something natural when they become sexually active.

"The state cannot dictate rules for behaviour, but information is fundamental," Mr Chequer said.

"The population has to be clear that there has to be prevention in a fairly notable form through not sharing needles and the use of condoms."

Sex risks

The health ministry's study found 76% of the population had not used a condom during sex in the previous 12 months.

It also found that 47% of men and 32% of women had sex before the age of 15, compared to 35% and 14% respectively in 1984.

"These figures are making us think about a new strategy for prevention," Mr Chequer said.

There are an estimated 536,000 HIV-infected people out of Brazil's 165 million population.

This is about half the figure the World Bank predicted a decade ago when Aids had seemed unstoppable in the country.

Mr Chequer said condom sales had shot up in that time - it had been 50 million a year in the 1980s but by 1998 more than 300 million were sold each year.

However, the challenge ahead was to get Brazilians to actually use them, he said.

See also:

08 Jul 99 | Aids
01 Sep 99 | Health
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