This multisite, qualitative study examined the process by which persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) engage in primary HIV medical care for treatment. Using a grounded theory approach, the analysis of narrative data from semi-structured in-depth interviews with PLWHA (n = 76) led to the development of a model describing a cyclic process of engaging in--and falling out of--care. Perceptions of the client-provider relationship emerged as a central element of the process by which persons with HIV engaged--or remained--in care. Provider behaviors that were characterized as engaging, validating, and partnering facilitated engagement and retention in care; behaviors described as paternalistic served as barriers to care. Participants indicated that they desired a care partnership with an empathetic provider who had effective communication skills. These findings provide recommendations for health providers to engage and retain hard-to-reach PLWHA in timely and appropriate HIV care and services.