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Already losing weight and suffering from dizzy spells, Mr. Although Brazil, with more than 18, cases, still lags far behind the United States, which has roughly , cases, its infection rate is rapidly climbing while the rate in the United States appears to be leveling off. About a million people in each country are believed to be infected with AIDS-causing viruses.
The Epidemic's Future. Here in Santos, the Brazilian city with the highest infection rate, doctors believe they see the epidemic's future. Mesquita, a public health specialist, said in an interview at a city-run AIDS referral clinic in this city just south of Sao Paulo. On his office walls, posters warned about the virus. Down the hall, men and women with thinning hair and gaunt visages already crowded benches, waiting for treatment.
At the start of the epidemic in Brazil, AIDS occurred mainly among homosexual men and people infected through blood tranfusions. Today, the virus is spreading rapidly through drug users and their sexual partners. About a third of new cases in Brazil are now traced to infection by dirty needles. A random survey of 82 intravenous drug users here found that 57 percent carried an AIDS-causing virus.
While middle-class Brazilians take cocaine by sniffing powder, Brazil's poor more commonly inject it directly into their veins. Mesquita, who is conducting an epidemiological study here in conjunction with San Francisco General Hospital.
In one index of rising drug use, seizures of cocaine by the Brazilian police nearly quintupled in the last six years -- to 5, pounds in , from 1, pounds in About 3 percent of the adult population in this South Atlantic city of , people are believed to carry AIDS-causing viruses. So far, there have been deaths. For some victims, transmission has been through sex. Prostitution and promiscuous sexual practices abound in this city, which not only has docks filled with sailors from around the world, but beaches filled with tourists from Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, only 40 miles inland.