OBJECTIVE: Chronic pain is common in HIV-infected individuals. Understanding HIV-infected patients' chronic pain experience not just from a biological, but also from a psychological perspective, is a critical first step toward improving care for this population. Our objective was to explore HIV-infected patients' perspectives on psychological aspects of chronic pain using in-depth qualitative interviews. METHODS: Investigators engaged in an iterative process of independent and group coding until theme saturation was reached. RESULTS: Of the 25 patients with chronic pain interviewed, 20 were male, 15 were younger than age 50, and 15 were African-American. Key themes that emerged included the close relationship between mood and pain; mood and pain in the context of living with HIV; use of alcohol/drugs to self-medicate for pain; and the challenge of receiving prescription pain medications while dealing with substance use disorders. CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that psychological approaches to chronic pain treatment may be well received by HIV-infected patients.