Two major groups of renal complications in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease are a spectrum of disorders that result in potentially reversible acute renal failure, primarily acute tubular necrosis (ATN), and HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN), predominantly focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), leading to end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Fluid-electrolyte and acid-base derangements frequently encountered in acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) are major risk factors for the development of acute renal failure (ARF). HIVAN is an unusual form of poorly responsive glomerular disease characterized by nephrotic syndrome, FSGS, and a rapid fulminant progression to ESRD. ARF syndromes encountered in HIV patients are diverse in nature; many are similar to that in non-HIV subjects, whereas some are more common and unique. In general, HIV disease patients with ARF are younger and much sicker. Although ATN secondary to ischemic and toxic injuries is the commonest ARF syndrome, urinary obstruction is a rare cause of severe renal failure. In many AIDS patients afflicted with complicated infections and multi-organ failure, ATN is a terminal event, whereas in others treated aggressively, ARF is associated with good prognosis. In our large comparative study of severe ARF, recovery of renal function and mortality were determined by patient's general hemodynamic status, and not by the presence or absence of HIV infection. The prognosis of hemolytic uremic and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura syndromes often observed in HIV patients is much worse than in non-HIV patients. The syndrome of crystalluria-induced ARF is common, and protease inhibitor induced disease is confined to HIV patients.