Chaos, co-existence, and the potential for collective action: HIV-related vulnerability in Brazil's international borders

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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In a country where quality HIV/AIDS prevention and care has been foremost on the national agenda, Brazil's extensive and diverse borders are one of the last unstudied potential hotbeds of HIV vulnerability. We carried out a rapid assessment of HIV-related services and the social context of HIV/AIDS at the Brazilian borders including current governmental and community response. The assessment was implemented in six frontier municipalities using the WHO's strategic approach methodology, which combines existing epidemiologic data with field-based qualitative data collection techniques, including observation of service delivery points and in-depth interviews and focus groups with local leaders, providers, and community members, in order to recommend context-specific HIV prevention strategies. This paper focuses on the qualitative findings regarding the role of the social context in shaping HIV vulnerability at the Brazilian borders. We documented a profound lack of governmental structure and response to HIV/AIDS at the borders as well as a notable absence of social cohesion and mobilization among the diverse population groups and communities situated at the borders with regard to HIV/AIDS. The weak governmental and community response is situated within a larger socio-political context of economic inequity and social division, which must be addressed if an effective response to HIV can be developed at Brazil's international borders. Possibilities for encouraging a collective response among the diverse border populations are explored.