Brazil shares best AIDS practice with parliamentarians
29 June 2007
International politicians seeking guidance on how to better prevent and treat HIV joined community health workers in Brazil as they made their house calls.
As part of the activities of the newly-set up Inter-Parliamentary (IPU) advisory group on HIV/ AIDS, parliamentarians from India, Uganda, South Africa and Sweden chose to visit Brazil for their first field trip, given the country’s reputation for best practice on AIDS issues. Access to free health care is written into Brazil’s constitution and the energetic, multisectoral AIDS response has made a real impact on the epidemic.
By not focusing specifically on HIV the health workers create an atmosphere of confidentiality and understanding.
In Sao Paulo, community health teams learn how to introduce the subjects of contraception and HIV prevention as part of general discussions on health. They then make regular door-to-door visits in low income neighbourhoods.
“What impressed me about the Brazilian approach is ensuring that universal access to free health care is enshrined in their constitution, Being able to provide the same standards of care to all citizens irrespective of their status in society is something to emulate,” said Dr Elidoa Tumwesigye,” head of Uganda’s Parliamentary Committee on HIV/AIDS.
“Everyone was impressed. By not focusing specifically on HIV the healthworkers created an atmosphere of confidentiality and understanding - this made it easier for people to come forward and seek further information about their HIV status,” said James Jennings of the IPU.
The visit was organised by the Brazilian Congress International Advisory, supported by the Brazilian National AIDS Programme, UNAIDS and UNDP. The IPU group also met the Minister of Health Jose Gomes Temporao and attended a special debate organised by the parliamentary committee on social welfare and the family.
“This mission happens in a strategic moment, in which all efforts are intensifying to guarantee the universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support 2010. The participation of legislators is essential and Brazil has an important experience to share on this theme” said Luiz Loures, UNAIDS Associate Director for Global Initiatives.
In Brazil, 50 Parliamentarians from across the political divide have formed the “Parliamentary Front for Health.” They work together to ensure AIDS is kept high on the political agenda and to break down prejudice and stigma.
Legislators in the AIDS response
The global objective of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) advisory group on HIV/AIDS is to learn how different legislatures approach the subject of HIV. Politicians within the group aim to learn from each other’s experience in different contexts and settings.
“In some countries it’s not even acceptable to talk about it. You can’t legislate about something if you can’t even discuss it,” Mr Jennings pointed out.
Politicians within the Inter-Parliamentary Union advisory group on HIV/AIDS aim to learn from each other’s experience in different contexts and settings.
Marco Aurélio da Silva from the National Network of People living with HIV/AIDS (RNP+ Brazil) called on parliamentarians to increase their active participation in the AIDS response.
“The inclusion of legislators in AIDS debates and their participation is very welcome. This partnership is extremely important”.
For example, he said that most people living with HIV were on social security. “We need the intervention of legislators in order to guarantee our ability to remain at work”.
A new edition of a handbook on HIV for legislators will be launched at the first IPU Global Parliamentary Conference on HIV to be held in Manila in November, just before World AIDS Day.
“The full engagement of parliaments in their respective countries is crucial to ensure the appropriate responses to AIDS and secure the necessary resources to support them”, said Eduardo Barbosa, Deputy Director of the National AIDS Programme in Brazil, who was actively involved in the organization of the Brazilian IPU visit.
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