Efforts to provide HIV prevention, treatment, and care to injecting drug users (IDU) are shaped by tensions between approaches that regard IDU as criminals and those regarding drug-dependent individuals as patients deserving treatment and human rights. Advocates for IDU health and human rights find common cause in urging greater attention to legal frameworks, the effects of police abuses, and the need for protections for particularly vulnerable populations including women and those in state custody. Arbitrary detention of drug users, and conditions of pretrial detention, offer examples of how HIV prevention and treatment are adversely impacted by human rights abuse. National commitments to universal access to prevention and treatment for injecting drug users, and the recognition that users of illicit substances do not forfeit their entitlement to health services or human dignity, offer a clear point of convergence for advocates for health and rights, and suggest directions for reform to increase availability of sterile injection equipment, opiate substitution treatment, and antiretroviral therapy. For IDU, protection of rights has particular urgency if universal access to HIV prevention and treatment is to become an achievable reality.