We studied the frequency with which unexplained oral candidiasis led to unequivocal acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in patients at risk. Twenty-two previously healthy adults with unexplained oral candidiasis, of whom the 19 tested had a reversed T4/T8 ratio and 20 had generalized lymphadenopathy, were compared with 20 similar patients with a reversed T4/T8 ratio and generalized lymphadenopathy who did not have oral candidiasis. All were intravenous-drug abusers, homosexual or bisexual men, or both. Thirteen of the 22 patients with oral candidiasis (59 per cent) acquired a major opportunistic infection or Kaposi's sarcoma at a median of three months (range, 1 to 23) as compared with none of 20 patients with generalized lymphadenopathy and immunodeficiency but without candidiasis who were followed for a median of 12 months (range, 5 to 21) (P less than 0.001). AIDS developed in 12 of 15 patients with candidiasis and T4/T8 ratios less than or equal to 0.51, as compared with none of four with ratios equal to or greater than 0.60 (P less than 0.01). We conclude that in patients at high risk for AIDS, the presence of unexplained oral candidiasis predicts the development of serious opportunistic infections more than 50 per cent of the time. Whether the remainder will have AIDS is not yet known.