Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is common in end-stage renal failure patients. It is not known whether the prognosis of HCV-positive patients differs depending on whether they remain on dialysis or receive a kidney transplant. To address this question, we compared the outcomes of HCV- positive renal transplant recipients and HCV-positive patients who were acceptable candidates but had not yet received transplants. We reviewed all patients referred to our institution for renal transplantation evaluation between January 1992 and December 1995. Anti-HCV antibody was detected in 151 of 2, 053 (7.4%) patients. HCV-positive patients were more often male (74% v 56%; P < 0.0001), black (68% v 49%; P = 0.001), unemployed (87% v 74%; P = 0.0004), on dialysis (88% v 78%; P 0.0026), and on dialysis longer (30 ± 44 months v 13 ± 23 months; P 0.0001) than HCV-negative patients. We determined the outcomes of HCV-positive patients who had at least 2 years' follow-up. Thirty-three HCV-positive patients received kidney transplants (group I); 25 HCV-positive patients were acceptable transplant candidates but had not yet received an allograft (group II). Group I and II HCV-positive patients were similar with respect to age, race, duration of dialysis, cause of renal failure, prevalence of heart disease, and results of liver function tests. Survival was significantly decreased in group II versus group I (P = 0.043). Our study showed that HCV-positive renal transplant recipients had a better survival than similar HCV-positive patients awaiting transplantation.