The denial of fundamental human rights in countries like Zimbabwe is closely linked with the reasons why the HIV epidemic has raged there for the past 15 or so years. The epidemic thrives on secrecy, stigma, gender inequity, economic disempowerment, poor accountability and monopolies of knowledge. Many of the people who died in the 1990s and later were infected with HIV during the period 1985–90 while accurate information on the existence of HIV and how to protect oneself from it was actively suppressed by politicians and the medical profession. Although the rates of new infections seem to be slowing, young people are still getting infected every day and the disintegration of public health services over the past five years has made the lives of families living with AIDS much worse. The attitude of governments, policy makers and decision makers towards protection of human rights is reflected in their approach to tackling the HIV epidemic. The tension between individual rights to privacy and confidentiality versus public health approaches to protecting the health of communities is played out more in favour of powerful elites than of ordinary people.