OBJECTIVE: To provide current recommendations for antiretroviral therapy for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease. PARTICIPANTS: The original International AIDS Society-USA 13-member panel representing international expertise in antiretroviral research and care of patients with HIV infection. EVIDENCE: The following were considered: Newly available clinical and basic science study results, including phase 3 controlled trials; clinical, virological, and immunologic end-point data; interim analyses of studies presented at national and international research conferences; studies of HIV pathophysiology; and expert opinions of panel members. Recommendations were limited to the drugs available in mid 1997. PROCESS: The full panel met on a regular basis (July 1996, September 1996, November 1996, January 1997, and April 1997) since the publication of its initial recommendations in mid 1996 to review new research reports and interim results. The panel discussed whether and how new information changed its initial recommendations. The recommendations contained herein were determined by group consensus. CONCLUSIONS: New data have provided a stronger rationale for earlier initiation of more aggressive therapy than previously recommended and reinforce the importance of careful selection of initial drug regimen for each patient for optimal long-term clinical benefit and adherence. The plasma viral load is a crucial element of clinical management for assessing prognosis and the effectiveness of therapy, and such testing must be done properly. Treatment failure is most readily indicated by a rising plasma HIV RNA level and should be confirmed prior to a change of treatment. Therapeutic approaches must be updated as new data, particularly on the long-term clinical effect of aggressive antiretroviral treatment, continue to emerge.