This thesis is an attempt to theorise and operationalise empirically the notion of ‘civil society leadership’ in Sub-Saharan Africa. ‘AIDS leadership,’ which is associated with the intergovernmental institutions charged with coordinating the global response to HIV/AIDS, is both under-theorised and highly context-specific. In this study I therefore opt for an inclusive framework that draws on a range of approaches, including the literature on ‘leadership’, institutions, social movements and the ‘network’ perspective on civil society mobilisation. This framework is employed in rich and detailed empirical descriptions (‘thick description’) of civil society mobilisation around AIDS, including contentious AIDS activism, in the key case studies of South Africa and Uganda. South Africa and Uganda are widely considered key examples of poor and good leadership (from national political leaders) respectively, while the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO) are both seen as highly effective civil society movements. These descriptions emphasise ‘transnational networks of influence’ in which civil society leaders participated (and at times actively constructed) in order to mobilise both symbolic and material resources aimed at exerting influence at the transnational, national and local levels.