We examined 99 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-negative and 122 HIV-positive intravenous drug users (IVDUs) without acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) to determine whether HIV-positive IVDUs had more neurologic and neuropsychological impairment than their HIV-negative counterparts. Controlling for age, education, drug use, history of head injury, and interactions between head injury and HIV status and drug use, HIV-positive subjects had more extrapyramidal signs and frontal release signs. These findings persisted when asymptomatic HIV-positive subjects without systemic signs of infection and HIV-negative subjects were compared. Neurologic findings were more severe in those with more systemic illness. Among those reporting a history of head injury with loss of consciousness, neuropsychological performance was significantly worse in the HIV-positive subjects, and this increased with severity of illness. This was not true in the group without head injury, suggesting an interaction between history of head injury and the seropositive state. No relationship was noted between head injury and either drug use or HIV state. Therefore, subtle neurologic and neuropsychological abnormalities may precede clinical evidence of AIDS in IVDUs and may be more evident in those with head injury.