Helicobacter pylori is an important human pathogen that chronically colonizes the stomach of half the world's population. Infection typically occurs in childhood and persists for decades, if not for the lifetime of the host. How is bacterial persistence possible despite a vigorous innate and adaptive immune response? Here we describe the complex role of bacterial diversity and specific mechanisms to avoid or subvert host immunity in bacterial persistence. We suggest that H. pylori finely modulates the extent to which it interacts with the host in order to promote chronic infection, and that it uses diverse mechanisms to do so.