Complementary treatments are often used by HIV-infected individuals. Yet little is known about their effectiveness. The aim of this systematic review was therefore to summarize the published evidence for or against the effectiveness of complementary therapies in HIV-positive people. A comprehensive literature search was conducted to locate all randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of complementary therapies. Data were extracted in a standardized fashion and evaluated critically. Fourteen studies met our pre-defined inclusion/exclusion criteria; 2 of herbal treatments, 5 of vitamins and other supplements, 5 of stress management, one of massage therapy, and one of acupuncture. They fall into 2 broad categories of 'cure' and 'care'. While the former category yields few encouraging results, the latter group of studies is more promising. In particular, stress management may prove to be an effective way to increase the quality of life. It is concluded that few rigorous trials of complementary treatments for HIV exist. The domain of complementary medicine may lie in the care for HIV-infected individuals with a view of increasing their quality of life. This notion requires further rigorous investigation.