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To assess the impact of specific AIDS-defining conditions on survival in HIV-infected persons, with emphasis on the effect of tuberculosis.A retrospective cohort analysis of HIV-infected Africans and non-Africans attending 11 specialist HIV/AIDS units in London enrolled for a comparison of the natural history of HIV/AIDS in different ethnic groups.A total of 2048 patients were studied of whom 627 (31%) developed 1306 different AIDS indicator diseases. Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia accounted for 159 (25%) of initial AIDS episodes and tuberculosis for 103 (16%). In patients with HIV disease, tuberculosis had the lowest risk [relative risk (RR), 1.11; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.75–1.63], and high-grade lymphoma had the highest risk (RR, 20.56; 95% CI, 2.70–156.54) for death. For patients with a prior AIDS-defining illness, the development of subsequent AIDS indicator diseases such as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (RR, 1.18; 95% CI, 0.77–1.83) and tuberculosis (RR, 1.36; 95% CI, 0.76–2.47) had the best survival, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma had the worst survival (RR, 9.67; 95% CI, 1.26–74.33). Patients with tuberculosis had a lower incidence of subsequent AIDS-defining conditions than persons with other initial AIDS diagnoses (rate ratio, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.37–0.59).Considerable variation exists in the relative risk of death following different AIDS-defining conditions. The development of any subsequent AIDS-defining condition is associated with an increased risk of death that differs between diseases, and this risk should be considered when evaluating the impact of specific conditions. Like other AIDS-defining conditions, incident tuberculosis was associated with adverse outcome compared with the absence of an AIDS-defining event, but we found no evidence of major acceleration of HIV disease attributable to tuberculosis.