Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is lymphotropic and neurotropic. In vivo clinical and immunological abnormalities develop in a large proportion of long-term HIV antibody seropositive persons. Different stages of HIV infection are marked by expression of HIV genes, production of HIV antibodies, formation of antigen/antibody complexes and clearance of such complexes. Transient HIV antigenemia appearing generally 6-8 wk prior to HIV antibody (HIV-Ab) seroconversion and lasting 3-4 mth is generally seen in acute infection. IgM antibodies predominantly to core proteins may occasionally be detectable when, or just before, IgG antibodies appear. If IgG antibodies to both envelope and core proteins persist in the absence of HIV-Ag the short-term prognosis is relatively good. However, HIV-Ag seroconversion may appear at any time after HIV-Ab seroconversion. Progression to AIDS is strongly associated with declining or absent levels of IgG antibodies to p24. IgG2 and IgG4 antibodies to HIV, which are mainly directed to p24, disappear most dramatically. Titers of antibodies to HIV p24 below 64 are strongly associated with the presence of HIV antigen and a poor clinical outcome.