There are 33 million people worldwide currently infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This complex disease affects many of the processes involved in wound and fracture healing, and there is little evidence available to guide the management of open fractures in these patients. Fears of acute and delayed infection often inhibit the use of fixation, which may be the most effective way of achieving union. This study compared fixation of open fractures in HIV-positive and -negative patients in South Africa, a country with very high rates of both HIV and high-energy trauma. A total of 133 patients (33 HIV-positive) with 135 open fractures fulfilled the inclusion criteria. This cohort is three times larger than in any similar previously published study. The results suggest that HIV is not a contraindication to internal or external fixation of open fractures in this population, as HIV is not a significant risk factor for acute wound/implant infection. However, subgroup analysis of grade I open fractures in patients with advanced HIV and a low CD4 count (< 350) showed an increased risk of infection; we suggest that grade I open fractures in patients with advanced HIV should be treated by early debridement followed by fixation at an appropriate time.