We measured human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) DNA in brains of 15 patients who died with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). All had been followed prospectively prior to death; 7 were demented and 8 were not demented. HIV was detected in 13 of 15 brains by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and in the remaining 2 by presence of viral RNA or viral antigen. Quantitative PCR showed a wide range in amounts of HIV DNA with no significant difference between brains of demented and nondemented patients. These results suggest that qualitative features of the virus, rather than increased virus load per se, may be responsible for the clinical differences between HIV-infected patients with and without dementia.