Esophageal ulcers associated with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) may be chronic, debilitating, and resistant to antifungal or antiviral therapy. The therapeutic management of these lesions remains controversial due to the difficulty in identifying pathogenic agent(s). We review previously published cases and describe three AIDS patients with esophageal ulcers that stained by immunoperoxidase techniques for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 surface glyloprotein (gp41). All three showed symptomatic resolution and healing of their ulcers with corticosteroid therapy. We believe this documentation of HIV-1 gp41 antigen within mononuclear cells of esophageal ulcers in AIDS supports a role of the HIV-1 virus in the pathophysiology of idiopathic esophageal ulcers in patients with AIDS. These cases further support a role for corticosteroid therapy in the treatment of esophageal ulcers resistant to antifungal and antiviral therapy in patients with AIDS.