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Caveat emptor

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Buyer beware, even when the item is only truth and the price is zero. The Washington Post reports [2] (ht: Drudge [3]):

The United Nations [4]
top AIDS scientists plan to acknowledge this week that they have long
overestimated both the size and the course of the epidemic, which they
now believe has been slowing for nearly a decade, according to U.N.
documents prepared for the announcement.

AIDS remains a devastating public health crisis in the most heavily affected areas of sub-Saharan Africa [5].
But the far-reaching revisions amount to at least a partial
acknowledgment of criticisms long leveled by outside researchers who
disputed the U.N. portrayal of an ever-expanding global epidemic.

The
latest estimates, due to be released publicly Tuesday, put the number
of annual new HIV infections at 2.5 million, a cut of more than 40
percent from last year’s estimate, documents show. The worldwide total
of people infected with HIV — estimated a year ago at nearly 40
million and rising — now will be reported as 33 million.

Self-interest appears to have played a role in the estimates, as we cynical economists often point out:

Having millions fewer people with a lethal contagious disease is
good news. Some researchers, however, contend that persistent
overestimates in the widely quoted U.N. reports have long skewed
funding decisions and obscured potential lessons about how to slow the
spread of HIV. Critics have also said that U.N. officials overstated
the extent of the epidemic to help gather political and financial
support for combating AIDS.

"There was a tendency toward
alarmism, and that fit perhaps a certain fundraising agenda," said
Helen Epstein, author of "The Invisible Cure: Africa [6], the West, and the Fight Against AIDS." "I hope these new numbers will help refocus the response in a more pragmatic way."

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