Over one million children world-wide are living with HIV infection and respiratory disease is the commonest cause of morbidity and mortality in these children. The initial presentation of respiratory infection is usually in infancy or early childhood. There is enormous potential to prevent childhood HIV infection that is being realised in industrialised countries but not yet elsewhere. Increasingly, therefore, the burden of HIV disease is in children living in or from non-industrialised countries. This review describes and contrasts the pattern of respiratory infection from both regions. This pattern has changed with the implementation of PCP prophylaxis and the availability of potent antiretroviral therapy for children in resource-rich countries, such as the UK. More data are required from resource-poor regions such as tropical Africa, but it is clear that the major differences reflect greater background risk for respiratory infection and very limited management options rather than specific aetiology.