While it is increasingly recognized that contextually relevant HIV prevention and AIDS mitigation interventions are more likely to succeed than enforced generic strategies, relatively little attention has been given to understanding the manner in which affected individuals and communities themselves perceive and subsequently experience the epidemic. Drawing on research undertaken in the Caprivi region of Namibia, this article challenges dominant biomedical HIV/AIDS discourse and demonstrates the important role of alternative illness narratives in shaping local understandings of and responses to HIV/AIDS. Four interlinked illness narratives are examined: the relationship between illness and resource use, gender and pollution, religious ideas about morality, and witchcraft accusations. Links are made between these narratives and threats to the social and moral order brought about by socioeconomic change. While treatment sought can initially be influenced by the illness narrative employed, an overriding concern to cure the ill person combined with a range of coexisting social pressures to be seen to be doing the "right thing" ultimately play a more significant role in determining treatment.