As activists and passionate people we like to think that we can make a huge difference in preventing disease through awareness efforts. Witness the increasingly-ridiculous facebook status updates in support of breast cancer prevention, for example, but also the general attitude embodied by groups like SIC (who I volunteered for in college) that put tons of effort into education.
In the population I’m studying (Malawi), however, awareness of HIV is about as high as it can possibly get and that hasn’t seemed to slow the epidemic. What’s more, I’m increasingly dubious that campaigns by NGOs and so forth have very much to do with people’s awareness of the disease. This is a virus that infects more than one in ten Malawians and almost invariably kills those who get it, who are prime-aged adults. It would be impossible not to know about it at this point.