Gay men continue to be the largest group in Canada developing AIDS They have responded to this threat on a personal and community level The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of gay men about AIDS, and how they responded to these perceptions Data were gathered through unstructured interviews with 34 healthy gay men, from participant observations chosen from logs that described nursing interactions with gay men who had AIDS, and fieldnotes collected during AIDS education programmes with health care workers and gay men Using constant comparative analysis, a substantive conceptual framework was developed Trusting was identified as the basic social psychological process that determined how gay men responded to AIDS AIDS was perceived by all gay men in this study to threaten their own health and their acceptance by society Variables identified behaviour, ranging from denial of personal risk to taking leadership roles in organizations to fight AIDS related to the trusting theory This theoretical explanation of gay men's responses provides direction for programmes to educate gay men about HIV-related diseases, as well as to support those who acquire the HIV