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Teaching by example is an essential component of vocational training in general practice and trainers should be expected to exhibit a high standard of practice. A postal questionnaire about knowledge of, attitudes to and response to the epidemic of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was completed by 114 general practitioner trainers in the south west Thames region. The findings were compared with those of an identical survey of 155 non-trainer general practitioner principals in south west London. There were no appreciable differences between trainers and nontrainers in knowledge and attitudes, although trainers were significantly more likely to have discussed the problem of AIDS with their practice staff. The problems encountered in both groups included: lack of knowledge about AIDS, inability to offer AIDS counselling and advice, and reluctance to care for intravenous drug abusers. These findings suggest that trainers need to improve their practice in areas concerned with the AIDS problem in order to provide a better learning model for their trainees.