OBJECTIVE: To identify key relationships between the decision to take a break from antiretroviral treatments and potential clinical and social antecedents. METHODS: An analysis of a self-completed survey of various clinical and social aspects of the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) distributed nationally in Australia was carried out. RESULTS: The questionnaire was completed by a sample of 894 PLWHA. From this sample, three groups of interest were identified: a 'no break' group that had been using antiretrovirals continuously (n=378), a 'lifestyle break' group that had taken a break for purely lifestyle reasons on their last occasion (n=76), and a 'clinical break' group that had taken a break for purely clinical reasons on their last occasion (n=99). Clinical breaks were found to be longer than lifestyle breaks and involved more consultation with doctors. Differences were also found between the two break types in effects on the respondents' health and well-being. The clinical break group was further found to experience a higher level of health difficulties on a range of variables, while the lifestyle break group was younger, had a longer experience of HIV and its consequences, and engaged in greater participation in activities associated with both pleasure and risk. CONCLUSIONS: The analyses offer a pattern of health and social factors that places the HIV-positive individual, as a social actor, squarely within the experience of treatment interruptions. Understanding the social motivations and correlates of treatment interruption offers new challenges in maximizing the efficacy of health maintenance and support for PLWHA.