Brazil will expand its free HIV treatment program to include people who have a CD4 cell count of 500 or less, Ronaldo Hallal of the Health Ministry’s STD department announced on Wednesday. At least 35,000 more patients will benefit from Brazil’s raising of the immune system measurement for eligibility from 350 to 500 CD4 cells or less. Recent studies show that the “earlier treatment begins, the better is the quality of life of a person infected with the HIV virus,” said Hallal. “Brazil will be the only large country in the world to offer this kind of treatment that will reduce the risk of opportunistic infections like tuberculosis,” said Health Minister Alexandre Padilla. The expansion will cost 120 million reals (US $60,000) annually. Brazil already spends 1.2 billion reals ($600,000) each year to treat 223,000 people. The country has been willing to challenge antiretroviral drugs’ patents in order to ensure access to cheaper generic treatments.
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