After more than 15 years of foreign assistance to support HIV/AIDS prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa, HIV rates in the sub-continent remain high with only a few examples of reduced HIV incidence. This case study used the frame of "shared sovereignty" between nation-states and official development assistance agencies to analyze 13 years of technical assistance for HIV/AIDS programs in Tanzania from 1987 to 2000. The study draws on 21 key informant interviews and a systematic review of key program documents from the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) and 14 other international agencies. Applying Jamison et al.'s (Lancet 351 (1998) 514) shared sovereignty framework, the analysis focused on fulfilled shared functions in moving Tanzania's NACP from dependence to independence. The analysis revealed an uneven and inconsistent level of technical assistance to the NACP with a rotation of multilateral and bilateral donors over the period of study. The Tanzanian government was often ambivalent toward agencies providing assistance towards its HIV/AIDS programs and toward its own NACP. Results are discussed in terms of implications for future strategic planning to mitigate the effects of HIV/AIDS. Determining roles, shared accountability and responsibility in a shared sovereignty framework remain a challenge in the governance of HIV/AIDS programs in Tanzania.