Interpersonal power gradients may prevent people implementing HIV prevention decisions. Among 7,464 youth aged 15–29 years in Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland we documented indicators of choice-disability (low education, educational disparity with partner, experience of sexual violence, experience of intimate partner violence (IPV), poverty, partner income disparity, willingness to have sex without a condom despite believing partner at risk of HIV), and risk behaviours like inconsistent use of condoms and multiple partners. In Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland, 22.9, 9.1, and 26.1% women, and 8.3, 2.8, and 9.3% men, were HIV positive. Among both women and men, experience of IPV, IPV interacted with age, and partner income disparity interacted with age were associated with HIV positivity in multivariate analysis. Additional factors were low education (for women) and poverty (for men). Choice disability may be an important driver of the AIDS epidemic. New strategies are needed that favour the choice-disabled.