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

James A. Inciardi, Hilary L. Surratt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1461-1480
Number of pages20
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Hilary L. Surratt,M.A., is a Research Associate in the Comprehensive Drug Research Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine and is the Project Director of an HIV/AIDS seroprevalence and prevention study in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She also directs a female condom multisite study. Both projects are funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Ms. Surratt received her M.A. from the University of Florida, and she has published in the areas of AIDS, substance misuse, and drug policy.


  • Brazil
  • Children
  • Crime
  • Drug use
  • HIV-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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