BACKGROUND: In China an estimated 780,000 people are living with HIV (PLWH). In high-income countries PLWH are at increased risk of depression, with subsequent adverse consequences for quality of life, and HIV-related morbidity and mortality. There are few data from low-and middle-income countries. The aims of this country-specific investigation of the Asia Pacific NeuroAIDS Consortium (APNAC) study were to establish the point prevalence, severity and HIV-related and non-HIV related correlates of depressive symptoms in PLWH, in Beijing, China. METHOD: PLWH attending an outpatient clinic at Ditan Hospital, Beijing were recruited consecutively. Data sources were: study-specific questions about demographic characteristics, and health behaviours, the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), the World Health Organisation Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ-20) translated into Mandarin and administered as structured individual interviews, and a screen battery of four standard neuropsychological tests. RESULTS: In total 50/51 (98%) eligible patients agreed to participate. Overall 28% scored CES-D>/=16 or SRQ20>/=10 and 18% in these clinical ranges on both measures; 69% were classified as being neuropsychologically impaired (scoring below 1 SD of the control value on at least two tests). Higher depressive symptom scores were associated with lower education, alcohol overuse and diminished motor ability (all p<0.05), but not neuropsychological impairment CONCLUSION: Clinically significant depressive symptoms among this cohort of PLWH in Beijing occurred at 5 times the rate reported among a general Chinese urban population. No participants had been assessed for depression prior to the study and none were treated, indicating that consideration of psychological morbidity and its consequences for health behaviours should be incorporated into routine HIV care in China.