Antiretrovirals are standard treatment for HIV-1-positive women during pregnancy in the UK, but little is known about maternal or fetal safety. In our cohort study of 214 pregnant women with HIV-1 infection, those who received no antiretroviral therapy had a rate of pre-eclampsia significantly lower (none of 61) than those on triple antiretroviral therapy (8 of 76; odds ratio 15.3, 95% CI 0.9-270, p=0.0087). However, the rate of pre-eclampsia in HIV-1-positive women on treatment did not differ from that in uninfected controls (12 of 214; p=0.2). The association of HIV-1-related immune deficiency with a low rate of pre-eclampsia, and the restoration of this rate in women treated with triple antiretroviral therapy to the expected rate indicates a pivotal role of the immune system in the pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia. The clinical presentation of pre-eclampsia and toxic effects of antiretroviral therapy could overlap and complicate diagnosis and management in these patients.