This study was undertaken to resolve existing controversies with respect to the detection of IgA HIV-1-specific mucosal antibodies in infected individuals. External secretions, including tears, nasal, rectal, and vaginal washes, saliva, semen, urine, and sera were obtained from 50 HIV-1-infected individuals and 20 controls using collection procedures that minimize the irritation of mucosal surfaces. Levels of total and antigen (gp120 and gp160)-specific antibodies of the IgG and IgA isotypes were measured by assays that proved reliable in a large multicenter study: quantitative ELISA and chemiluminescence-enhanced Western blot analyses. Although the levels of total IgG and IgA were increased or remained unchanged in body fluids of HIV-1-infected individuals as compared to the controls, HIV-1-specific IgA antibodies were either absent or present at low levels even in secretions with characteristically high relative contents of total IgA vs. IgG (saliva, tears, and rectal and nasal washes). In these secretions, HIV-1-specific IgG antibodies dominated. In assessing levels and frequency of detection of IgG antibodies, both female and male genital tract secretions, urine, and nasal wash were preferable to parotid saliva and especially to rectal wash. External secretions contained IgG antibodies to gp160 > gp120 > gp41 and p24; when present, IgA antibodies were predominantly directed at gp160. Analyses of peripheral blood antibody-secreting cells (ASC) isolated from the same individuals paralleled these serological findings: gp160-specific IgG-secreting ASC were dominant. Therefore, in striking contrast to other mucosally encountered microbial infections, HIV-1 does not induce vigorous specific IgA responses in any body fluid examined or in ASC in peripheral blood.