BACKGROUND: Evidence-based HIV interventions often fail to reach anticipated impact due to insufficient utilization in real-world health systems. Human-centered design (HCD) represents a novel approach in tailoring innovations to fit end-users, narrowing the gap between efficacious interventions and impact at scale. METHODS: We combined a narrative literature review of HCD in HIV programs with our experience using HCD to redesign an intervention promoting patient-centered care (PCC) practices among health care workers (HCW) in Zambia. We summarize the use and results of HCD in the global HIV response and share case study insights to advance conceptualization of HCD applications. RESULTS: The literature review identified 13 articles (representing 7 studies) on the use of HCD in HIV. All studies featured HCD hallmarks including empathy development, user-driven inquiry, ideation, and iterative refinement. HCD was applied to mHealth design, a management intervention and pre-exposure prophylaxis delivery. Our HCD application addressed a behavioral service delivery target: changing HCW patient-centered beliefs, attitudes, and practices. Through in-depth developer-user interaction, our HCD approach revealed specific HCW support for and resistance to PCC, suggesting intervention revisions to improve feasibility and acceptability and PCC considerations that could inform implementation in transferable settings. CONCLUSIONS: As both a research and implementation tool, HCD has potential to improve effective implementation of the HIV response, particularly for product development; new intervention introduction; and complex system interventions. Further research on HCD application strengths and limitations is needed. Those promoting PCC may improve implementation success by seeking out resonance and anticipating the challenges our HCD process identified.