We studied four patients with HIV-associated optic neuropathies. One had syphilitic optic perineuritis, which responded promptly and completely to penicillin therapy. The second had cytomegalovirus papillitis and visual acuity subsequently deteriorated to no light perception. The third showed varicella zoster optic neuritis, which improved after intravenous acyclovir treatment. The fourth patient developed cryptococcal retrobulbar neuritis and died shortly thereafter. Optic neuropathy was among the initial symptoms of HIV infection in two of the four cases.