The value and limitations of CT and MR in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection of the brain was determined by a retrospective analysis of the CT scans (22) and MR images (7) in 22 patients with pathologically proved HIV encephalitis (21) or meningitis (1). Our clinical-radiologic-pathologic correlation suggested that, especially in the early stages of the disease, CT and MR were relatively insensitive in detecting the primary changes of HIV encephalitis. The multiple bilateral diffuse microscopic glial nodules with multinucleated giant cells of HIV found at autopsy in both gray and white matter were usually not directly visualized by either CT or MR. Secondary, nonspecific changes, however, were seen. These included cortical atrophy, found in virtually all patients with HIV encephalitis, and HIV-induced foci of demyelination found in the minority of cases. On CT the latter were seen in the white matter as nonenhancing, nonmass-producing areas of low density; on MR they were seen as frequently progressive high-intensity signal abnormalities on T2-weighted images, usually in the periventricular white matter and centrum semiovale. MR was more sensitive in detecting these demyelinative lesions than was CT. The clinical diagnosis of HIV encephalitis usually antedated the radiographic diagnosis. In HIV meningitis, contrast CT was more definitive than MR, showing striking enhancement of the subarachnoid spaces, although MR was more sensitive in detecting the secondary parenchymal changes.