The epidemiology and clinical outcome of acute myeloid leukaemia in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected adults is poorly documented. We retrospectively surveyed all French haematology centres for adult acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) cases diagnosed between January 1990 and July 1996 who were found to be HIV-seropositive before or at the time of AML diagnosis. Medical charts were reviewed to determine the stage of HIV infection, the characteristics of AML and the response of AML to chemotherapy. Sixteen cases of AML (13 men, three women) were reported by 12 haematology units. Based on assumptions on the size, age and sex distribution of the HIV-infected population in France, the estimated risk of AML in 1990 to 1996 among HIV-infected adults was twice that of the general population (standardized incidence ratio = 2·05; 95% confidence interval, 1·17–3·34). Two other cases occurring before 1990 were spontaneously notified to the authors and were included in the clinical analysis. At AML diagnosis, the median CD4+ cell count was 275 × 106/l and nine patients had acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Fifteen patients were scheduled for remission-induction therapy of AML. No deaths were related to AML treatment. Complete remission was obtained in 11 out of 15 patients. Three patients were long-term survivors: two remain alive in complete remission at 8 years and 9 years, respectively, and the third died of AIDS at 8 years. A CD4+ cell count above 200 × 106/l at AML diagnosis was predictive of longer survival (log-rank test: P = 0·004). Like many other malignancies, the incidence of AML appears to be increased in HIV-infected patients. Our results show a twofold higher incidence, although this needs to be confirmed in a specifically designed prospective epidemiological study. Such patients, especially those with CD4+ cell counts above 200 × 106/l at AML diagnosis, should receive remission-induction therapy, which can confer long-term survival.