Using the theory and concepts of health promotion, this paper proposes a logic model for HIV/AIDS prevention and control which provides a structure for describing planned actions and predicted impacts/outcomes from comprehensive HIV prevention interventions. The potential usefulness of the model is examined by reviewing the evolution of HIV prevention and management in China, drawing on evidence from interventions reported from a mixture of study designs and formats. It reports that HIV interventions in China can be considered in two distinctive phases, before and after 2003 when China commenced its 'official' response to the HIV epidemic. The logic model was useful in comparing actions taken over these two periods highlighting the importance of political leadership in distinguishing between the two phases, and the continuing importance of systematic and broadly based public education and communication. We conclude that the logic model can not only be used as a planning model, but can also be applied retrospectively to assess successes and failures in national and local responses to HIV in complex social settings.