As a refugee or asylum seeker, you have the same right to access the Unified Health System (SUS) as any Brazilian citizen. The SUS provides basic, medium and high complexity health procedures free of charge throughout Brazil. Below you will find a series of information on how to use SUS, as well as on the Conect SUS platform.
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?
Refugees and asylum-seekers have the right to access public health services, so it is not necessary to contact UNHCR or a partner organization to seek medical assistance.
At Basic Health Units (UBS), you can consult a general practitioner. If necessary, the doctor may refer you to a specialist.
Bring your Provisional Protocol or National Migration Registration Card (formerly National Foreigner Registration – RNE) and CPF when you go to a UBS for the first time. You will receive a SUS card. This document contains all medical information about its bearer and provides access to consultations and examinations. You must carry your SUS card every time you seek medical assistance.
In case of urgency or emergency, contact:
- Emergency Care Unit (UPA): these units provide basic medical care 24 hours a day, every day.
- Hospitals and Emergency Room (ER): some of these units are open 24 hours a day, every day. These units offer medical assistance to more complex cases, including hospitalization.
- Call an ambulance, dial 192.
Look for the medical centers closest to your residence at CONECTE SUS. On the website, you will find all the medical services closest to your home.
For more information, see http://sus.catalogo.med.br/
If you need translation at the health centre, please contact one of the UNHCR partners.
Attention: we recommend that you always look for the health unit closest to your residence.
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.