The reported reduction in the prevalence level of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Zimbabwe has been represented as one of the most significant and rapid declines within any population since the epidemic emerged as a public health issue. This paper explains how this development has been reported, challenged and eventually owned by many of the diverse stakeholders who constitute Zimbabwe's overall AIDS response. The Zimbabwean government has claimed that the decline was brought about due to its own efforts and resources. However, while the country has received considerably less AIDS funding than its neighbours, external donations still account for the vast bulk of AIDS spending in Zimbabwe. In addition, instead of collapsing, as some predicted, the Zimbabwean state can also claim that it has presided over increased availability of antiretroviral therapy. In this paper we examine how various internal and external stakeholders deployed strategic explanations in an attempt to take credit for ‘the decline’; this is an important case study of how epidemiological data can be used to construct and contest political legitimacy.