Objective To assess whether HIV surveillance data from pregnant women attending antenatal care (ANC) clinics in Zimbabwe represent infection levels in the general population. Methods HIV prevalence estimates from ANC surveillance sites in 2006 were compared with estimates from the corresponding Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey 2005–06 (ZDHS) clusters using geographic information systems. Results The ANC HIV prevalence estimate (17.9%, 95% CI 17.0%–18.8%) was similar to the ZDHS estimates for all men and women aged 15–49 years (18.1%, 16.9%–18.8%), for pregnant women (17.5%, 13.9%–21.9%), and for ANC attendees living within 30 km of ANC surveillance sites (19.9%, 17.1%–22.8%). However, the ANC surveillance estimate (17.9%) was lower than the ZDHS estimates for all women (21.1%, 19.7%–22.6%) and for women living within 30 km catchment areas of ANC surveillance sites (20.9%, 19.4%–22.3%). HIV prevalence in ANC sites classified as urban and rural was significantly lower than in sites classified as “other”. Conclusions Periodic population surveys can be used to validate ANC surveillance estimates. In Zimbabwe, ANC surveillance provides reliable estimates of HIV prevalence among men and women aged 15–49 years in the general population. Three classifications of ANC sites (rural/urban/other) should be used when generating national HIV estimates.