Diarrhea and weight loss may accompany the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. We studied 30 patients with the syndrome, 20 of whom had diarrhea and weight loss and 10 of whom did not. Patients with identifiable enteric infections or small intestinal Kaposi's sarcoma were excluded. Malabsorption was common in the patients with diarrhea and weight loss, as shown by abnormal D-xylose and 14C-glycerol-tripalmitin absorption tests. In these patients, duodenal biopsy specimens showed a histiocytic infiltrate containing numerous acid-fast organisms in 5 and a mild-moderate chronic inflammation in 13. In asymptomatic patients, duodenal biopsy specimens were normal in 6 and showed chronic inflammation in 4. These results suggest that malabsorption is common in patients with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome with chronic diarrhea and may contribute to their weight loss.