OBJECTIVE: Although the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in children is increasing, little is known about its use in children with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. This study investigated the use of CAM by parents of children with HIV infection (H), children with asthma (A), and well children (W). Our hypothesis was that parents of the H group are more likely to use CAM than parents of the W or A group because of the nature and severity of the illness. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Parents of 152 subjects [H (n = 46), A (n = 53), and W (n = 53)] were interviewed on the use of CAM for their children, types of CAM, reasons for use/nonuse, methods of payment, and perceived benefits for their children. RESULTS: Compared with parents of the W and A groups, parents of the H group were less likely to be employed, were less likely to have private insurance, were less likely to have a high school or college education, and were more likely to be black. Interestingly, 38% of the W parents used CAM in their children compared with 22% in the H group and 25% in the A group. More than 80% of all three groups paid out of pocket for their use of CAM in their children. Within these groups, H parents were more likely to want CAM as part of their child's medical care (H = 91% vs W = 75% and A = 67%, P = 0.02) and were more likely to believe that CAM was expensive (H = 78% vs W = 57% and A = 60%, P < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS: Our study revealed a relatively high rate of CAM usage by parents of all three study groups. Although parents of children with HIV infection were more likely to want CAM as part of their children's medical care, their rate of CAM usage was not higher than that in well children. This may be related to their socioeconomic factors. A larger and more diverse study population may provide more information on factors contributing to CAM usage in chronically ill and well children.