Purpose: To correlate chest radiographic abnormalities with diagnoses in HIV infected patients presenting with acute respiratory symptoms and lobar or segmental consolidation. Materials and Methods: Retrospective review of chest radiographs of 53 HIV infected patients with lobar or segmental consolidation, and their microbiological and cytological diagnoses. Results: A specific diagnosis was made in 35 patients of which 12 had Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (including four co-infections) and 23 had bacterial pneumonias (10 of these were due to Streptococcus pneumoniae and four to Mycobacterium tuberculosis). Microbiological and cytological tests were negative in 18 patients. Non-specific radiographic features included bronchial wall thickening (79%), reticulonodular or reticular change (55%), effusions (38%) and lymphadenopathy (25%); effusions favoured a bacterial aetiology. Ten of the 12 cases with P. carinii pneumonia had upper lobe consolidation (three of these had received inhaled pentamadine). Of 13 other cases of upper lobe consolidation, eight were due to pyogenic infection and only one to M. tuberculosis alone. Conclusion: A wide variety of causative agents may produce lobar or segmental consolidation in HIV infected individuals, and the most common cause is bacterial infection. Where there is upper lobe consolidation P. carinii pneumonia should be considered in the differential diagnosis. © 1997 The Royal College of Radiologists.