HIV infection has now been consistently identified as the major cause of death in young Africans in both urban and rural areas. In Africa, several studies have defined the clinical presentation of HIV disease but there have only been a limited number of autopsy studies. Because of the scarcity of autopsy data and the possibility of differing type and frequency of opportunistic infections between different geographic locations we set out to study consecutive new adult medical admissions to a tertiary referral hospital in Nairobi and perform autopsies on a sample of HIV-1-positive and HIV-1-negative patients who died in the hospital ward. Basic demographic data were collected on all patients admitted to two acute medical wards over an 11-month period. Final outcome and final clinical diagnoses were recorded at discharge or death. An autopsy examination was requested if the patient died in the ward. Autopsy examination was performed in 75 HIV-1-positive (40 men, 35 women) and 47 HIV-1-negative (28 men, 19 women) adults who died in the hospital. This represented 48.4% of all HIV-1-positive deaths and 33.3% of all HIV-1-negative deaths. Tuberculosis (TB) and bacterial and interstitial bronchopneumonia accounted for 96% of the major pathology in patients found to be HIV-1-positive at autopsy. TB was present in half the HIV-1-positive autopsy patients and was disseminated in over 80% of cases. Meningeal involvement was present in 26% of those with disseminated TB. By contrast, TB was much less common in the HIV-1-negative patients at autopsy in whom bacterial bronchopneumonia and malignancies were the most common pathologies. The type pathology found in the HIV-1-positive autopsy patients was not different than that found in other areas in Africa so far studied.