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Individuals who present late with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection do not benefit from advances in drug therapies that delay their progression to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This paper describes these individuals and their subsequent survival and investigates predictors of late presentation. All AIDS diagnoses from 1992-1998 notified to the Victorian State AIDS Registry were included. Subjects were grouped as individuals diagnosed with AIDS within 8 weeks of a first positive HIV test (late presenters), or individuals for whom there was more than 8 weeks between AIDS diagnosis and first positive HIV test (non-late presenters). Of 1021 AIDS diagnoses notified, 24% were late presenters. Late presentation was associated with increasing age, being bisexual or heterosexual, being born in Asia, southern Europe or South America and being diagnosed at a hospital. Late presenters survived longer following AIDS diagnosis (P < 0.0001). This increased survival may indicate a positive response by drug naive patients to antiretroviral therapies following AIDS diagnosis.