The first registered case of AIDS in Brazil came in 1982. Back then, the press called it the “gay plague,” “God’s curse on queers,” or the “5H disease“—a reference to what had been observed as the most-affected populations (homosexuals, hemophiliacs, Haitians, heroin addicts, and ‘hookers’). It was only in the 1990s, with the deaths of famous singers Cazuza and Renato Russo from AIDS-related illnesses, that Brazil would pay more attention to the disease.
Since then, Brazil has become a worldwide reference in dealing with AIDS. In 1996, it became one of the first countries in the world to offer free treatment for HIV-positive patients in its healthcare system and is still the only country with a comparable population size to do so. Since adopting this model, the lifespan of patients more than doubled—from around 58 months (or roughly five years) in 1996 to over 12 years today, according to a study by the Health Ministry earlier this year.