Abstract Background While there are many published studies on HIV and functional limitations, there are few in the context of early abuse and its impact on functionality and Quality of Life (QoL) in HIV. Methods The present study focused on HIV in the context of childhood trauma and its impact on functionality and Quality of Life (QoL) by evaluating 85 HIV-positive (48 with childhood trauma and 37 without) and 52 HIV-negative (21 with childhood trauma and 31 without) South African women infected with Clade C HIV. QoL was assessed using the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire (Q-LES-Q), the Patient's Assessment of Own Functioning Inventory (PAOFI), the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) scale and the Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS). Furthermore, participants were assessed using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ). Results Subjects had a mean age of 30.1 years. After controlling for age, level of education and CES-D scores, analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) demonstrated significant individual effects of HIV status and childhood trauma on self-reported QoL. No significant interactional effects were evident. Functional limitation was, however, negatively correlated with CD4 lymphocyte count. Conclusions In assessing QoL in HIV-infected women, we were able to demonstrate the impact of childhood trauma on functional limitations in HIV.