ISSUE ADDRESSED: The Australian response to HIV oversaw one of the most rapid and sustained changes in community behaviour in Australia's health-promotion history. The combined action of communities of gay men, sex workers, people who inject drugs, people living with HIV and clinicians working in partnership with government, public health and research has been recognised for many years as highly successful in minimising the HIV epidemic. METHODS: This article will show how the Australian HIV partnership response moved from a crisis response to a constant and continuously adapting response, with challenges in sustaining the partnership. Drawing on key themes, lessons for broader health promotion are identified. RESULTS: The Australian HIV response has shown that a partnership that is engaged, politically active, adaptive and resourced to work across multiple social, structural, behavioural and health-service levels can reduce the transmission and impact of HIV. CONCLUSIONS: The experience of the response to HIV, including its successes and failures, has lessons applicable across health promotion. This includes the need to harness community mobilisation and action; sustain participation, investment and leadership across the partnership; commit to social, political and structural approaches; and build and use evidence from multiple sources to continuously adapt and evolve. So what? The Australian HIV response was one of the first health issues to have the Ottawa Charter embedded from the beginning, and has many lessons to offer broader health promotion and common challenges. As a profession and a movement, health promotion needs to engage with the interactions and synergies across the promotion of health, learn from our evidence, and resist the siloing of our responses.