So last week in ghU, Annabel, our lovely coordinator, brought in a TED talk to share (http://www.ted.com/talks/emily_oster_flips_our_thinking_on_aids_in_africa.html). Emily Oster, a UChicago economist, presents data to show that HIV prevalence relies on more than success or failure of prevention campaigns. She focuses solely on Uganda to show the correlation between economic well-being and decreases in HIV prevalence; coffee exports in Uganda increased with decreased HIV levels.
This TED talk was filmed in 2007--therefore some of Oster's data is outdated. According to the AIDS Indicator Survey conducted by Demographic and Health Surveys, rates of HIV infection increased from 6.4% to 7.3% from 2004 to 2011. Though this increase may not be as statistically significant as the drop in rates from the 1990s to the 2000s, this is significant nonetheless. Uganda may not be a success story at all. According to Oster's position, one may blame this on the recession in the latter part of the decade. However, this increase was not significant enough to have it linked to such a large economic problem. Uganda is a large portion Christian, and church-goers have voiced negative opinions on prevention campaigns. Stigma and risky sexual behavior (see AIDS Indicator Survey in 2004 and 2011) has also increased.
Therefore, each case of HIV/AIDS is different, and to solely attribute the prevalence rates to one reason may need some reconsideration. There are many factors, and addressing all the nuances of individual countries might tackle the HIV epidemic more effectively than what Oster has managed to suggest.
Hopefully this triggers some thought on a relevant public health concern.