National statistics for patient characteristics and survival of renal transplant recipients positive for hepatitis C virus (HCV+) at the time of renal transplant are presented. A historical cohort analysis of 33479 renal transplant recipients in the United States Renal Data System from 1 July, 1994 to 30 June, 1997 has been carried out. The medical evidence form was also used for additional variables, but because of fewer available values, this was analyzed in a separate model. Outcomes were patient characteristics and survival associated with HCV+. Of 28692 recipients with valid HCV serologies, 1624 were HCV+ at transplant (5.7% prevalence). In logistic regression analysis, HCV+ was associated with African-American race, male gender, cadaveric donor type, increased duration of pre-transplant dialysis, previous transplant, donor HCV+, recipient (but not donor) age, serum albumin, alcohol use, and increased all-cause hospitalizations. Diabetes and IgA nephropathy were less associated with HCV+. Total all-cause, unadjusted mortality was 13.1% in HCV+ vs. 8.5% in HCV- patients (p <0.01 by log rank test). In Cox regression, mortality was higher for HCV+ (adjusted hazard ratio = 1.23, 95% confidence interval = 1.01-1.49, p = 0.04). HCV+ recipients were more likely to be African-American, male, older, and to have received repeat transplants and donor HCV+ transplants. HCV+ recipients also had substantially longer waiting times for transplant. In contrast to recent studies, diabetes did not have an increased association with HCV+, perhaps due to limitations of the database. HCV+ recipients had increased mortality and hospitalization rates compared with other transplant recipients.