BACKGROUND: The aim of this mixed methods study was to conduct a multifaceted needs assessment to inform the development of an online self-management program for men living with HIV. The objectives were to describe the health-related quality of life for men living with HIV, the impact of living with HIV, and the perceived problem areas and service and support needs of these men. The needs assessment was conducted in accordance with the PRECEDE model for health promotion program planning. METHODS: A survey assessing the quality of life of men living with HIV (n = 72) was conducted and results were compared to Australian normative data. Focus groups were also undertaken with men living with HIV (n = 11) and a multidisciplinary team of service providers working in the area of HIV (n = 11). Focus groups enabled an in-depth description of the impact of HIV on quality of life and perceived problem areas in daily life. RESULTS: HIV-positive men experience significantly lower quality of life when compared with Australian normative data, particularly in those domains concerned with social and emotional aspects of quality of life. Qualitative focus groups yielded an overarching theme 'The psychosocial impact of HIV' which contained three sub-themes; (1) Life before and after HIV--a changed identity and its repercussions; (2) Resilience and the importance of social support; (3) Negotiating the practicalities--intimate relationships and disclosure. CONCLUSIONS: The findings from this needs assessment highlight the need to target socio-emotional contexts of HIV positive men's daily lives to improve quality of life and well-being. Intervention priorities for the proposed online self-management program include: (1) managing the emotional impact of HIV; (2) disclosing HIV status to family and friends; (3) maintaining social connectedness; (4) managing HIV within intimate relationships; and (5) disclosure of HIV status to intimate partners.