A distinct form of renal disease has been described in patients at various stages of HIV infection that is becoming increasingly important as a cause of morbidity and mortality. Black race and intravenous drug abuse appear to predispose one to its development. The HIV-associated nephropathy is characterized by nephrotic-range proteinuria, rapid progression to end-stage renal disease, a diffuse sclerosing glomerulopathy with significant tubulo interstitial disease seen on light microscopy, and tubuloreticular inclusions seen via electron microscopy. The entity can be separated from heroin-associated nephropathy. The pathogenesis is unclear. Possibilities include direct invasion of the virus, effects of other viruses, genetic factors, immune factors, and multiple growth factors. Not all patients with HIV infection and renal disease have HIV-associated nephropathy. Because of prognostic and therapeutic implications, it is crucial to differentiate these lesions. Some reports suggest a possible beneficial effect of zidovudine therapy, but more study is required. Patient survival is dependent on the stage of HIV infection. Dialysis therapy does not appear to substantially prolong life in most patients with AIDS and irreversible renal failure. Therefore, a number of ethical issues have arisen that deal with medical futility.