Brazil, considered a leader in the fight against HIV, marked World AIDS Day Monday with marches by youths that joined their voices to a campaign to prevent discrimination against people suffering from the dreaded disease or infected with the virus that causes it.
Drama groups staged outdoor performances, handed out condoms and fliers and waved banners with references to the campaign in Rio's downtown area.
Non-governmental organizations such as Por la Vida took the opportunity to warn the population that despite government statements, the AIDS epidemic has not been brought under control in Brazil, where it is estimated that some 600,000 people are currently infected with HIV.
In Brasilia, some 300 adolescents displayed a giant quilt in so-called Tres Poderes square "to symbolize the public's solidarity" and pay tribute to the more than 100,000 people who have died in Brazil in the past 20 years from the AIDS scourge.
A Rio samba group staged a show promoting the use of condoms as the best way to prevent the spread of AIDS.
In Sao Paulo - which with 10 million people is the largest city in South America - a handful of activists waved banners asking for solidarity with AIDS sufferers and demanding that the government sponsor more AIDS prevention campaigns.
For his part, Health Minister Humberto Costa joined demonstrators in Brasilia and said that "the most important thing is to prevent discrimination." Costa announced that a new AIDS medication would be introduced soon in Brazil that would cost 75 percent less than the drugs currently being used to treat AIDS patients.
Many of these drugs began to be produced in Brazil after the previous administration decided to disregard the patents owned by major pharmaceutical firms in favor of what it said was the public interest.
Brazil's anti-HIV/AIDS strategy has been copied by several other countries and praised by the United Nations.
All AIDS patients in Brazil receive free medical treatment and exams.
In September, Brazil reported 277,153 cases of HIV/AIDS, or 19,373 more cases than in December 2002. Some 70 percent of all patients are males.