Children in the streets of Brazil: drug use, crime, violence, and HIV risks

Subst Use Misuse. 1998 Jun;33(7):1461-80. doi: 10.3109/10826089809069809.


The presence of vast numbers of unsupervised and unprotected children is a phenomenon that is common throughout Latin America, and in few places are the street children more visible, and reviled, than in Brazil. Estimates of their numbers in Brazil have ranged from 7 to 17 million, but more informed assessments suggest that between 7 and 8 million children, ages 5 to 18, live and/or work on the streets of urban Brazil. Accounts of drug misuse among street youths in Brazil are commonplace. Numerous scientific studies and media stories have reported the widespread use of inhalants, marijuana and cocaine, and Valium among street children. Also common is the use of coca paste and Rohypnol. Risk of exposure to HIV is rapidly becoming an area of concern because of the large number of street youths engaging in unprotected sexual acts, both renumerated and nonrenumerated. Moreover, Brazil's street children are targets of fear. Because of their drug use, predatory crimes, and general unacceptability on urban thoroughfares, they are frequently the targets of local vigilante groups, drug gangs, and police "death squads." Although there have been many proposals and programs for addressing the problems of Brazilian street youth, it would appear that only minimal headway has been achieved.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Advocacy
  • Child Welfare
  • Child, Abandoned / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Human Rights / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Police
  • Public Opinion
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Urban Health*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*