The continuing worldwide epidemic of adult HIV/AIDS has led to an increase in the number of HIV-positive children mainly through perinatal transmission. Although national data are available, there is no published report of the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS in children in Jamaica. A multicentre retrospective analysis of 183 HIV seropositive children admitted to hospitals in Jamaica between 1990 and 1996 was conducted. Ages at diagnosis were available for 172 patients with 61% diagnosed in the first year of life. Clinical histories were available for 129 patients with the primary presenting symptoms of infected children being failure to thrive, pneumonia, diarrhoea, dermatitis and lymphadenopathy. Classification was possible in 128 patients: 49 were exposed, 76 were infected and three were seroreverters. Infected children had a longer hospital stay than those classified as exposed or seroreverters. As of December 31, 1997, 125 patients had defaulted, nine patients were alive and 51 were reported dead with a median age of death of 12 months. From these data, it is estimated that the hospital-based HIV incidence among children in Jamaica increased from 0.149 per 10,000 person years in 1990 to 1.331 per 10,000 person years in 1996. This study demonstrates a rise in the estimated incidence of HIV/AIDS but we were unable to estimate survival reliably since the data required were not available for 75% of children identified. These data highlight the urgent need for targeted interventions to reduce vertical transmission of HIV as well as a need for prospective studies to establish reliable data on incidence and long-term outcome for HIV-infected children.