updated 4/30/2008 6:09:57 PM ET 2008-04-30T22:09:57

A working class suburb of Chile's capital began handing out free Viagra to senior citizens on Wednesday. Lo Prado Mayor Gonzalo Navarrete said he launched the program because "an active sexuality improves the overall quality of life."

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About 1,500 residents of the working-class area are eligible to receive as many as four pills of the erectile dysfunction drug each month, the mayor said. They have to be at least 60 and be registered with the municipality's health service.

"A doctor will have to certify that they suffer from erectile dysfunction and that their condition would not put them in danger of suffering cardio-respiratory side effects," Navarrete told The Associated Press by telephone.

He said he has assured about $10,000 in financing for the program through the end of the year.

Some government insurance plans in the United States and elsewhere provide Viagra, but Lo Prado hands the 50 milligram pills out free, with no membership in any public or private insurance plan required.

Navarrete said some other mayors in the Santiago area, which includes 34 municipalities, have told him they plan similar programs.

Navarrete said he did not know how many pills had been distributed so far.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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