This paper reviews the English language literature on the safety, immunogenicity and effectiveness in children infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) of vaccines currently recommended by WHO for use in national immunization programmes. Immunization is generally safe and beneficial for children infected with HIV, although HIV-induced immune suppression reduces the benefit compared with that obtained in HIV-uninfected children. However, serious complications can occur following immunization of severely immunocompromised children with bacillus Calmette-Gu rin (BCG) vaccine. The risk of serious complications attributable to yellow fever vaccine in HIV-infected persons has not been determined. WHO guidelines for immunizing children with HIV infection and infants born to HIV-infected women differ only slightly from the general guidelines. BCG and yellow fever vaccines should be withheld from symptomatic HIV-infected children. Only one serious complication (fatal pneumonia) has been attributed to measles vaccine administered to a severely immunocompromised adult. Although two HIV-infected infants have developed vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis, several million infected children have been vaccinated and the evidence does not suggest that there is an increased risk. The benefits of measles and poliovirus vaccines far outweigh the potential risks in HIV-infected children. The policy of administering routine vaccines to all children, regardless of possible HIV exposure, has been very effective in obtaining high immunization coverage and control of preventable diseases. Any changes in this policy would have to be carefully examined for a potential negative impact on disease control programmes in many countries.