The development of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV)-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) involves the adaptation of viral sequences coding for the V3 loop of the env protein. The plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may contain viral populations from various cellular sources and with differing pathogenicity. Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) may alter the relative abundance of these viral populations, leading to a genetic shift. We characterized plasma and CNS viral populations prior to and during cART and relate the findings to viral elimination kinetics and the clinical phenotype. Longitudinal plasma and CSF samples of five chronically infected HIV patients, four of whom had HAND, and one seroconverter were analyzed for V3 sequences by RT-PCR and sequence analysis. In the chronically infected patients, pre-cART plasma and CSF viral sequences were different irrespective of viral elimination kinetics and clinical phenotype. cART induced replacement of plasma viral populations in all subjects. CSF viral populations underwent a clear genetic shift in some patients but remained stable in others. This was not dependent on the presence of HAND. The genetic shift of CSF V3 sequences was absent in the two subjects whose CSF viral load initially increased during cART. In one patient, pre- and post-treatment CSF sequences were closely related to the post-treatment plasma sequences, suggesting a common cellular source. We found heterogeneous patterns of genetic compartmentalization and genetic shift over time. Although these did not closely match viral elimination kinetics and clinical phenotype, the results imply different patterns of the dynamics and relative contribution of compartment-specific virus populations in chronic HIV infection.