The purpose of this study was to determine whether short echo-time proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H-MRS) could detect mobile lipid resonances attributable to myelin break-down products in the deep cerebral white matter of patients with AIDS who have severe diffuse/patchy white matter hyperintensity on T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Seven patients with AIDS and clinical HIV-associated dementia complex (HADC) and 12 male controls were studied at 1.5T using a single 8 ml voxel, gradient localised, stimulated echo acquisition mode (STEAM) spectroscopy sequence. Spectra were acquired at an echo time of 20 ms with a repetition time of 5000 ms. No spectroscopic peaks were identified at 0.9 ppm and 1.3 ppm (corresponding to lipid resonances) in 6 of the 7 patients with AIDS or in any of the controls. Lipid resonances were identified in I patient who had been taking anti-retroviral therapy for 8 weeks. Follow up MRI/H-MRS, per- formed after a further 14 weeks of anti-retroviral therapy, showed partial resolution of white matter hyperintensity and lipid resonances were not detectable. These data suggest that mobile lipids are only rarely detected by H-MRS in patients with HADC and abnormalities on MRI and that their presence may be transitory.