BACKGROUND: People living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are at increased risk of acquiring multiple infections, many of which are preventable by vaccination. When an individual is newly diagnosed with HIV, it is important to take a vaccination history, test for immunity against a range of infectious diseases and administer vaccines as indicated, keeping in mind the person's immune status, as this may affect response to the vaccine, number of recommended doses and timing. OBJECTIVE: This aim of this article is to guide the general practitioner (GP) through each vaccine-preventable disease, highlight the risk in someone newly diagnosed with HIV and discuss the recommended number of doses and optimal timing of administration in relation to the individual's level of immunosuppression. DISCUSSION: The GP plays an important role in testing and diagnosing individuals with HIV. Prevention of disease is always preferable to treatment, and this article outlines an approach to vaccination that takes into account the variation in the level of immunosuppression that may be present at diagnosis and therefore affect an individual's responsiveness to a standard vaccine schedule.