In this study we examine the sociocultural meaning and use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) by nine people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and four CAM practitioners. Analysis revealed five themes: focus on health not illness; resistance to antiretroviral therapy and adherence; allopathic medicine as narrow; difficulty disclosing to doctors; and a continuum of CAM that sometimes included conventional medicine and sometimes excluded it entirely. Literature on PLWHA in the West commonly describes them as sophisticated health consumers. We explore the concepts of individual responsibility in relation to health, holism, control and well-being in the context of CAM. We also consider the meaning and significance of CAM and western medicine to comment on the contemporary experience of HIV, including the possible impact of stigma and the perceived limits of allopathic medicine among some PLWHA. Understanding this will enable better insight into the treatment choices of PLWHA, particularly those who may be described as sceptical of conventional medical science.