Purpose: To describe host characteristics (use of highly active antiretroviral therapy [HAART]; CD4+ T-lymphocyte count; HIV ribonucleic acid [RNA] blood level) of people who were diagnosed with AIDS-related cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis after HAART became available and to investigate effects of HAART on ophthalmic findings. Design: Retrospective, observational case series. Methods: We collected demographic, medical, laboratory, and ophthalmic data for all patients with AIDS and newly diagnosed, untreated CMV retinitis from January 1997 through December 2000 at 10 sites in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, California. Results: The proportions of Hispanic and African-American patients were equivalent to or greater than their prevalences in the AIDS and general populations of Los Angeles County. Most patients (n = 80; 63.5%) were known to be receiving HAART at the time of CMV retinitis diagnosis; only 22 patients (17.5%) were HAART-naïve. Median CD4+ T-lymphocyte count was 15 cells/μl and median HIV RNA blood level was 103,000 copies/ml for all patients, but in 10 patients, CMV retinitis developed despite good immunologic and virologic responses to HAART. When compared with HAART-naïve patients, HAART-failure patients with CMV retinitis had more asymptomatic disease (P = .073), better visual acuity in the better eye (P = .003), more bilateral disease (P = .007), less zone 1 involvement (P = .042), and lower lesion border opacity scores (P = .054). Conclusions: Most patients with AIDS and newly diagnosed CMV retinitis in an urban setting are HAART-experienced. HAART may influence characteristics of new CMV retinitis lesions at presentation, despite laboratory evidence of treatment failure, possibly because of residual CMV-specific immunity. © 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.