Some countries (e.g. Brazil) have good reputations on AIDS policy, whereas others, (notably South Africa) have been criticized for inadequate leadership. Cross-country regression analysis reveals that these ‘poster children’ for AIDS leadership have indeed performed better or worse than expected given their economic and institutional constraints and the demographic and health challenges facing them. Regressions were run on HAART coverage (number on highly active antiretroviral therapy as percentage of total need) and MTCTP coverage (pregnant HIV+ women accessing mother-to-child-transmission prevention services as percentage of total need). Brazil, Cambodia, Thailand and Uganda (all of whom have established reputations for good leadership on AIDS performed consistently better than expected—as did Burkina-Faso, Suriname, Paraguay Costa Rica, Mali and Namibia. South Africa, which has the worst reputation for AIDS leadership, performed significantly below expectations—as did Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago. The paper thus confirms much of the conventional wisdom on AIDS leadership at country level and suggests new areas for research.