We describe how selected adolescent learners experience their current HIV / AIDS programmes in school. The rationale of the instrumental case study was that knowing, appreciating and understanding learners' preferences and experiences should inform future HIV / AIDS curriculum design. Research was conducted at three specifically selected secondary schools (cases). Focus groups and written essays were used as methods for data collection from 90 Grade 11 participants. Whilst learners agreed that HIV / AIDS education is necessary, they suggested that certain changes be incorporated in future HIV / AIDS programmes. They suggested the following innovations: smaller gender-specific groups; outsider presenters; the involvement of parents / caregivers; more variety in the programme format; extended and continuous HIV / AIDS education; acquiring more information about HIV / AIDS care, support and treatment (the current emphasis is on prevention); addressing values and life skills in HIV / AIDS education; utilizing fear-provoking and real-life images and contexts to instill preventive caution. The findings support an integration of HIV / AIDS, life skills and values education into the formal curriculum. This approach is supported in the literature. Further research into learners' preferences and suggestions about the format and content of HIV / AIDS programme development is strongly recommended.