This study examines the meanings that individuals with HIV attach to their use of complementary therapies. A qualitative analysis of 66 interviews completed between 1993 and 1998 showed that complementary therapies represent different things for these individuals--a health maintenance strategy, a healing strategy, an alternative to Western medicine, a way of mitigating the side-effects of drug therapies, a strategy for maximizing quality of life, a coping strategy, and a form of political resistance. We found that the meanings individuals ascribe to complementary therapies and the benefits they expect to derive from them are not idiosyncratic, but linked to social characteristics--sexuality, ethnocultural background, gender--and to beliefs about health and illness, values and experiences. We found as well that these meanings are neither mutually exclusive nor fixed. The therapies often appeal to individuals on different levels and their appeal may change over time.