BACKGROUND There is little research investigating how human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) affects outcomes in orthopaedic surgery. With advances in treatment, HIV has become a chronic health problem and the chance of orthopaedic surgeons encountering it in clinical practice is increasing. AIM To ascertain the quantity and quality of peer-reviewed publications in orthopaedic journals about HIV. METHODS A search of the Web of Science database was carried out, identifying any articles relating to HIV published in orthopaedic journals. These were assessed for geographic origin and level of evidence. RESULTS Of 48.7% of orthopaedic journals listed on the Web of Science database had published articles relating to HIV. There were 168 articles about HIV in orthopaedic journals with only 40.5% ( n = 68) published in the time frame we analysed (January 2007 to September 2017). Very few articles came from low-income countries and any articles published from that setting were collaborations. All of the articles were low level of evidence. CONCLUSION There is a need for more high level orthopaedic and trauma research investigating the effects of HIV, particularly research from low-income countries, where higher level research will help to guide improvements in their treatment of its musculoskeletal manifestations and complications.