With the development and FDA approval of an increasing number of antiretroviral agents, decisions regarding the treatment of HIV-infected persons have become complex; and the field continues to evolve rapidly. In 1996, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation convened the Panel on Clinical Practices for the Treatment of HIV to develop guidelines for the clinical management of HIV-infected persons. This report includes the guidelines developed by the Panel regarding the use of laboratory testing in initiating and managing antiretroviral therapy, considerations for initiating therapy, whom to treat, what regimen of antiretroviral agents to use, when to change the antiretroviral regimen, treatment of the acutely HIV-infected person, special considerations in adolescents, and special considerations in pregnant women. Viral load and CD4+ T cell testing should ideally be performed twice before initiating or changing an antiretroviral treatment regimen. All patients who have advanced or symptomatic HIV disease should receive aggressive antiretroviral therapy. Initiation of therapy in the asymptomatic person is more complex and involves consideration of multiple virologic, immunologic, and psychosocial factors. In general, persons who have <500 CD4+ T cells per mm3 should be offered therapy; however, the strength of the recommendation to treat should be based on the patient's willingness to accept therapy as well as the prognosis for AIDS-free survival as determined by the HIV RNA copy per mL of plasma and the CD4+ T cell count. Persons who have >500 CD4+ T cells per mm3 can be observed or can be offered therapy; again, risk of progression to AIDS, as determined by HIV RNA viremia and CD4+ T cell count, should guide the decision to treat. Once the decision to initiate antiretroviral therapy has been made, treatment should be aggressive with the goal of maximal viral suppression. In general, a protease inhibitor and two nucleoside [corrected] reverse transcriptase inhibitors should be used initially. Other regimens may be utilized but are considered less than optimal Many factors, including reappearance of previously undetectable HIV RNA, may indicate treatment failure. Decisions to change therapy and decisions regarding new regimens must be carefully considered; there are minimal clinical data to guide these decisions. Patients with acute HIV infection should probably be administered aggressive antiretroviral therapy; once initiated, duration of treatment is unknown and will likely need to continue for several years, if not for life. Special considerations apply to adolescents and pregnant women and are discussed in detail.