Limited attention has been focused on HIV risk behaviors of crack smokers and their sex partners, yet there is evidence that the crack house and the crack-using life-style may be playing significant roles in the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The purposes of this research were to study the attributes and patterns of "sex for crack" exchanges, particularly those that occurred in crack houses, and to assess their potential impact on the spread of HIV. Structured interviews were conducted with 17 men and 35 women in Miami, Florida, who were regular users of crack and who had exchanged sex for crack (or for money to buy crack) during the past 30 days. In addition, participant observation was conducted in 8 Miami crack houses. Interview and observational data suggest that individuals who exchange sex for crack do so with considerable frequency, and through a variety of sexual activities. Systematic data indicated that almost a third of the men and 89% of the women had had 100 or more sex partners during the 30-day period prior to study recruitment. Not only were sexual activities anonymous, extremely frequent, varied, uninhibited (often undertaken in public areas of crack houses), and with multiple partners but, in addition, condoms were not used during the majority of contacts. Of the 37 subjects who were tested for HIV and received their test results 31% of the men and 21% of the women were HIV seropositive.