This paper marries public opinion survey data from the Afrobarometer with epidemiological data about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in seven Southern African countries. We use this data to examine the degree to which people are aware of the pandemic, and are willing to speak about it. We also use it to examine whether it yields any palpable consequences of the disease in terms of public health. In turn, we also ask whether data on public awareness of AIDS deaths and individual health status corroborate, broadly, existing epidemiological data on HIV/AIDS. Finally, we examine the degree to which HIV/AIDS affects southern Africans’political priorities, political participation, and expectations for government action.
Substantively, we find that nationally representative survey data supports the epidemiological data in many ways, providing an independent corroboration of expected levels of AIDS illness and death across the region. The epidemiological data tell us that people in all seven of these countries are growing ill and dying from AIDS in large numbers. The Afrobarometer surveys tell us that large numbers of people, in all seven countries, say they know someone who has died of AIDS and are willing to speak about it. Epidemiological estimates of AIDS deaths and popular experiences of AIDS deaths are closely correlated. Many people in these countries tell us that they are frequently ill, although the data do not disclose the nature of their illness. Epidemiological estimates of AIDS illnesses closely mirror the frequency with which people tell us that they are seriously ill.