Using a temporal approach dividing the reform process into two periods, this article explains how both Brazil and the United States were slow to respond to AIDS. However, Brazil eventually outpaced the United States in its response due to international rather than democratic pressures. Since the early 1990s, Brazil's success has been attributed to “strategic internationalization”: the concomitant acceptance and rejection of global pressure for institutional change and antiretroviral treatment, respectively. The formation of tripartite partnerships among donors, AIDS officials, and nongovernmental organizations has allowed Brazil to avoid foreign aid dependency, while generating ongoing incentives for influential AIDS officials to incessantly pressure Congress for additional funding. Given the heightened international media attention, concern about Brazil's reputation has contributed to a high level of political commitment. By contrast, the United States' more isolationist relationship with the international community, its focus on leading the global financing of AIDS efforts, and the absence of tripartite partnerships have prevented political leaders from adequately responding to the ongoing urban AIDS crisis. Thus, Brazil shows that strategically working with the international health community for domestic rather than international influence is vital for a sustained and effective response to AIDS.

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