Uganda's HIV success story has become increasingly focused around the idea of ‘ABC’ (Abstain, Be faithful or use Condoms). During the George W. Bush administration, the US Government has promoted one specific ABC model for its development agencies, with a particular emphasis on abstinence. Yet other actors have contested this view. To understand Uganda's success, it is imperative to look at what ABC was in Uganda when critical changes in behaviour were occurring. This paper investigates Uganda's HIV success, the politicised meanings of ‘ABC’, and the implications this may have for future HIV prevention in Uganda and beyond. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.