The pills retail for over $1,600 in the United States.
Sometimes the world’s biggest problems are solved through the world’s tiniest tools.
In this case, a small blue pill that can be held between your index finger and your thumb could reduce the number of people who fall victim to one of the world’s most prevalent communicable diseases: HIV/AIDS.
And in Brazil, the government is embarking on an ambitious campaign to bring this pill, called Truvada, to more than 50,000 people over the next five years at no cost, according to a press release from the World Health Organization (WHO).
On Dec. 1, in coordination with World AIDS Day, Brazil’s Ministry of Health announced its plan to bring an HIV prevention program called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to 9,000 people at 35 clinics in 22 cities in the next year. This preventive program includes a daily dose of Truvada, and will eventually scale up to 54,000 people in the first five years.
The treatment program will focus on men who have sex with men (MSM), transgender people, and sex workers, according to the WHO.
“PrEP will help to keep Brazil and our region in line with the world’s most advanced global responses to HIV – and we feel confident that it will have a positive impact on reducing new infections,” Dr Adele Benzaken, Director of the Department of STI, HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis within Brazil’s Ministry of Health, said in a statement.
The New York Times reports that Brazil is “among the first in the developing world” to take part in this program. It comes at an important time for the rapidly-developing country, which has seen a large increase in the prevalence of the disease.
The WHO estimates that the total number of Brazilians of all ages living with HIV/AIDS is around 830,000. But according to UN AIDS, the number of Brazilians who suffer from the disease tripled between 2006 and 2015, and more than 14,000 people died from the disease in 2016.
As a preventative treatment measure, PrEP has been shown to be 92% to 99% effective at preventing AIDS acquisition among men who have sex with men.
Brazil’s Health Ministry is working with an American pharmaceutical company called Gilead Sciences to obtain the pills for 75 cents a dose, according to the New York Times. Within the United States the average monthly cost of treatment runs at $1,605.96.
Worldwide, the large majority of 36.7 million people who suffer from the disease are in Sub-Saharan Africa. But Brazil’s initiative could set a precedent for preventing future transmission of HIV/AIDS around the world.
“This is a large-scale operation, and Brazil could become an example to all of Latin America that we need to see an integrated approach,” Georgiana Braga-Orillard, the director of U.N.AIDS Brazil, told The Times