Mucosal candidiasis is common in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Susceptibility to such infections may be attributed to reduced host defense mechanisms and/or virulence of the organism. In the present study, we compared the virulence of mucosal Candida albicans isolates from HIV-infected people, with and without fluconazole-refractory infection, in established murine models of systemic and vaginal candidiasis. Compared with the mortality rate ( approximately 70%) after intravenous challenge with 2 virulent reference isolates, challenge with most clinical isolates (66%-77%) resulted in prolonged survival. In contrast, fungal burden induced by intravaginal challenge of nearly all (97%) isolates was similar to that of the virulent controls. There were no differences in in vitro growth rates for any of the isolates, and there was no association between reduced mortality and clinical failure to fluconazole, in vitro antifungal susceptibility, site of infection, or other host factors. These results suggest that virulence of C. albicans is tissue specific and is not a factor in the development of fluconazole-refractory infections in advanced HIV disease.