We determined incidence and future projections of dementia after AIDS onset in 492 homosexual men with AIDS in the Baltimore/Los Angeles sites of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, 64 of whom developed dementia. We studied various risk factors for dementia, including demographic and clinical features, medical history, markers of immune status before AIDS, and zidovudine use. During the first 2 years after AIDS, HIV dementia developed at an annual rate of 7%. Overall, 15% of the cohort followed through death developed dementia. The median survival after dementia was 6.0 months. Using a proportional hazards model, risk factors for more rapid development of dementia were lower hemoglobin (relative hazard, 0.59 per additional 2 g/dl;p = 0.0005) and body mass index (relative hazard, 0.64 per additional 5 kg/m2; p = 0.05) 1 to 6 months before AIDS, more constitutional symptoms 7 to 12 months before AIDS (relative hazard, 1.68 per additional symptom, p = 0.005), and older age at AIDS onset (relative hazard, 1.60 per decade older; p = 0.009). In a multivariate model, pre-AIDS hemoglobin remained the most significant predictor of dementia. There were no significant risks defined from demographic characteristics, specific AIDS-defining illnesses, zidovudine use before AIDS, or CD4+ lymphocyte count before AIDS. We project that 12 months after the first AIDS diagnosis, 7.1% of survivors will have dementia. The observed association between anemia, low weight, constitutional symptoms, and dementia suggests a role for cytokines inducing both systemic and neurologic disease.