To describe the trend in the reasons for and result of women's HIV testing, systematic data was gathered for 11,523 consecutive women during pre-and post-test visits at a major counseling and testing (CT) site of Rome, Italy, June 1985-July 1996. The number of tested women and the proportion of female clients attending the CT site significantly increased during the study period (p < 0.001), mostly because of reported sexual risk or when triggered by pregnancy. A significant increasing trend in the proportion of women who had one prior test (30% overall) was observed in all groups, apart from IDU. Newly diagnosed HIV infections were 319 (2.8%). The HIV prevalence was 27% in 1985-1987, when 66.7% of cases were IDUs, and decreased to 1.3% in 1994-1996, when 53.7% of cases were women reporting HIV infected partners. The findings suggest that information on the potential risk of HIV transmission has permeated the female population. The shift of newly diagnosed infections from IDUs towards women reporting sexual exposure, suggests the need for targeting preventive efforts to these population groups. Underlying reasons for multiple testing need further analysis.