As a refugee or an asylum seeker, you have the same right to access the Brazilian Health System (Sistema Único de Saúde – SUS) as any citizen. The SUS comprises free basic, medium and high-complexity health procedures.
SUS - Unified Health System
SUS is a public health system that guarantees universal and free access to the entire population of the country, including refugees and asylum seekers.
The services of the SUS range from basic procedures to the most complex, emergency and emergency services, hospital care, pharmaceutical assistance, among others.
It is possible to find public hospitals and Basic Health Units (UBS) in all Brazilian states.
To learn more information, visit the website.
If I get sick, what should I do?
Asylum seekers and refugees are entitled to free public health services and therefore there is no need to go to UNHCR or a partner organization before looking for medical assistance.
At the Unidades Básicas de Saúde (UBS), you can consult with a general doctor. Moreover, if necessary, the doctor can refer you to a specialist.
When you go to an UBS for the first time, bring your Provisional Protocol/RNE and CPF. You will receive a SUS (health system) card. This document saves all medical information about the individual and provides access to consults and exams. Therefore, every time you look for medical care, you must bring your SUS card.
In case of urgency or emergency, go to:
- Pronto-Atendimento Unit (PA): these units offer basic medical care at 24/7
- Hospitals and Unidade de Pronto Socorro Units (PS): some of these units are open 24/7. These services provide health care for the more complex cases, including the need of hospitalization
- Call an ambulance at 192
Look at the health centres that are near your home:
For further information, you can also consult http://sus.catalogo.med.br/
If you need assistance with translation at a health center, contact one of UNHCR’s partners.
Will I need to pay for the medicine the doctor prescribed me?
It is possible to have access to various free medicine at the SUS health center where you are consulted. In order to obtain the free medicine, it is necessary to present the doctor’s prescription, the SUS card and an identity document.
If you live in the city of São Paulo, consult where a specific medicine is available by clicking here.
If the medicine prescribed is not available at the SUS system, there are Pharmacy Programs that also distribute medicine for free or at a reduced cost:
- Farmácia Popular do Brasil: offers medicines at a reduced price, considerably reducing the value when compared to regular drugstores
- Farmácia Dose Certa: medicines for free or at a reduced cost in the state of São Paulo
Finally, if the medicine prescribed is not available at the SUS system, nor at one of those free Pharmacy Programs, go to a UNHCR partner. The partner will assess the possibility of an social assistance.
What health precautions should I have in Brazil?
You are residing in a tropical country with a hot and humid climate. It is very important that you take certain precautions. First, you should drink a lot of water every day, and make sure to keep children hydrated. Moreover, for the last couple of years, Brazil has experienced outbreaks of two diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, Dengue and Zika. It is very important to keep in mind the following information and observe the government instructions on the prevention and fighting against those diseases.
For your reference, please consult the website of the Brazilian Ministry of Health:
In Brazil, parents are required to have their children vaccinated. Children, despite their nationality or whether they are asylum seekers or refugees, can be vaccinated free of charge in public health centres. The National Immunization Programme (PNI) offers people all the vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the National Vaccination Calendar.
For your reference, please consult the website of the Brazilian Ministry of Health for the National Programme on Immunization (Calendar of Vaccination).
What is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV completely. Therefore, once you have HIV, you have it for life.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, and not everyone who has HIV advances to this stage.
AIDS is the stage of infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged and you become vulnerable to opportunistic infections. Infections associated with severe immunodeficiency are known as “opportunistic infections”, because they take advantage of a weakened immune system.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is commonly transmitted by:
- Having sex (vaginal, anal or oral) without protection (not using condom) with a person living with HIV that is not under treatment and does not have a undetectable viral load
- Sharing contaminated needles and syringes
- Between a mother and her child during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding
HIV is not transmitted by:
- Air or water
- Mosquitoes, ticks or other insects
- Saliva, tears, or sweat that is not mixed with the blood of an HIV-positive person
- Shaking hands, hugging, sharing toilets, sharing dishes/drinking glasses, or closed-mouth or “social” kissing with someone who is HIV-positive
- Drinking fountains
- Other sexual activities that do not involve the exchange of body fluids (for example, touching)
How can I know if I am living with HIV?
The only way to know if you are living with HIV is to be tested. Everyone should be tested for HIV at least once. However, you should specially be tested for HIV if:
- You have an active sexual live (if you had sex with any person since your last HIV test)
- If you have injected drugs or shared needles
- If you are pregnant
You cannot rely on symptoms to know if you have HIV. Many people living with HIV present no symptoms.
For information about where to find an HIV test centre, please visit the Department of STD, AIDS and Viral Hepatitis of the Ministry of Health website.
If you tested positive for HIV, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible to begin your treatment, which is free.
Where can I be tested for HIV/AIDS?
In Brazil, you can be tested for HIV/AIDS for free. The diagnosis of HIV infection is made through a blood test. The test is completely free and you have the right to do it anonymously.
You can find the nearest test centre here.
What is the benefit of an HIV test?
Knowing your HIV status can have two important benefits:
- If you learn that you are HIV positive, you can take the necessary steps to access treatment, care and support, thereby potentially prolonging your life and preventing health complications
- If you know that you are living with HIV, you can take precautions to prevent the spread of HIV to others, including your baby. HIV-positive mothers have a 99% chance of having children without HIV if they follow the recommended treatment during the prenatal, delivery and postpartum
So if you went through a risky situation, such as having unprotected sex or sharing needles, do the exam!
Is it possible to live normally with HIV/AIDS?
Nowadays, there are medicines who allow people with HIV/AIDS to live a good life. These medicines are available free of charge in the Brazilian health system.