Named one of “The Best Books of 2012 on Africa” by Nicolas van de Walle in Foreign Affairs, this volume presents research commissioned by the RUSH Foundation looking at the most effective ways to tackle the HIV pandemic across sub-Saharan Africa.

The book, “RethinkHIV: Smarter ways to invest in ending HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa”, was a forerunner to the RethinkHIV research collaboration convened in 2014, and included a different group of researchers.

The starting point was that, thirty years after the identification of the disease that became known as AIDS, humanitarian organisations warn that the fight against HIV/AIDS has slowed. There is a funding shortfall and donor fatigue. Yet HIV is still the biggest killer of women of reproductive age in the world, and of men aged 15-59 in sub-Saharan Africa.

RUSH asked the Copenhagen Consensus Center, then a state-funded think-tank in Denmark, to commission eighteen research papers by teams of top health economists, epidemiologists, and demographers who examine the cost-effectiveness of a range of responses to HIV/AIDS in sub- Saharan Africa.

RethinkHIV at
RethinkHIV at Cambridge University Press

Body of research

Eighteen research papers were written by teams of top health economists, epidemiologists, and demographers examining a range of responses to HIV/AIDS in sub- Saharan Africa under the following topics:

  • Efforts to Prevent Sexual Transmission
  • Efforts to Prevent Non-Sexual Transmission
  • Treatment and Initiatives to Reduce the Impact of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic
  • Vaccine Research and Development
  • Social Policy Levers
  • Initiatives to Strengthen Health Systems

Six key analyses, or ‘Assessment Papers’, were supplemented by twelve ‘Perspective Papers’. The body of research was published in full in RethinkHIV by Cambridge University Press.

A panel of five eminent economists, including three recipients of the Nobel Prize, convened in late-September 2011 to carefully consider the research and engage with the authors. The Expert Panel was tasked with answering the question:

If we successfully raised an additional US$10 billion over the next 5 years to combat HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, how could it best be spent?

Nobel Laureate Expert Panel

After deliberating in a closed-door meeting, the Nobel Laureate Expert Panel provided their assessments, highlighting investments and actions that could be most effective avenues for additional funding.

Engaging Civil Society

To participate in a dialogue on the research and findings within sub-Saharan Africa, a Civil Society Conference and forums for youth were around the ICASA conference in Addis Ababa in December 2012.

RethinkHIV: the Book

In the late summer of 2012, the research papers, civil society and economist expert opinions were published as RethinkHIV by Cambridge University Press.

“Setting priorities for how money could be spent most effectively to fight HIV AIDS in Africa is a key priority. This pioneering work shows how economic analysis can contribute to a prioritisation for spending in this vital area. It will be invaluable to those funding both research activities and healthcare programmes in Africa.”

– Professor Sir John Bell, President, Academy of Medical Sciences and Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford:

This project was funded by Fondation Rush.



The Copenhagen Consensus Center is a think tank that publicizes the best ways for governments and philanthropists to spend their money based on hard facts. We add rational arguments and economic thinking to the global debate on development, aid money, and the environment by providing policy analysis and prioritization.

At the time of the RethinkHIV project, the Copenhagen Consensus Center was based at Copenhagen Business School, and was funded by the Danish state.




Copenhagen Consensus Center director Bjorn Lomborg in Project Syndicate, 14 October 2011: Making HIV/AIDS Investments Count

Bjorn Lomborg and LSHTM director Peter Piot in the Wall Street Journal, 27 September 2011: Rethinking the Fight Against AIDS

Bjorn Lomborg in The Guardian, 8 November 2012: In Africa, we must do the most good with each pound spent on Aids-HIV

Nicolas van de Walle in Foreign Affairs, 27 December 2012: RethinkHIV one of the Best Books of 2012 on Africa