HIV prevalence in China is less than one per cent, but the absolute number of people living with HIV/AIDS is large and growing. Given the limited scope of any potential cure for HIV, prevention plays a crucial role in controlling the epidemic. This paper examines the evolution of HIV awareness among women in China between 1997 and 2005. A regression decomposition analysis technique was used to disentangle the two main components driving a change in HIV awareness. The results show that HIV awareness has increased over time in China. The gaps between groups are narrowing over time and lower HIV awareness groups are catching up with the higher awareness groups. In 2005 education remained one of the main factors associated with HIV awareness, the other main factors being ethnicity, exposure to TV and newspapers. The increases in HIV awareness observed between 1997 and 2001 are similar between groups of women with different demographic characteristics, whereas between 2003 and 2005 increases are more pronounced among specific groups of women such as women from rural areas, women from Western parts of the country, women who belong to ethnic minorities and those with no education or with only primary education. The results suggest that the main driver of the observed change in HIV awareness over time in China is change in the environment such as in political commitment, interventions and campaigns rather than change in population structure.