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All 922 general practitioners in Northern Ireland were sent a questionnaire on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Five hundred and ninety four general practitioners (64.4%) returned the questionnaire. Thirty eight respondents (6.4%) knew of an HIV positive patient in their practice and 93.3% felt they should be informed if one of their patients was found to be HIV positive at a genitourinary medicine clinic, even without the patient's consent. Of the respondents, 76.8% were willing to be involved in the management of AIDS patients in their practice in cooperation with hospital colleagues but only 37.5% felt confident to provide AIDS counselling and advice. Of the 368 general practitioners who did not feel confident to provide AIDS counselling and advice, 41.3% felt that they had insufficient knowledge and 79.6% felt uncertain of their counselling skills. The information gathered on the administration of injections, taking blood samples and disposal of needles indicated that further education for general practitioners is required to ensure safety at work.