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To assess the knowledge and attitudes of general practitioners about HIV infection, a postal survey was undertaken of one in three of all principals in Scotland; 834 (77.6%) responded. Respondents' knowledge about HIV was often limited, and they found the discussion of sexual behaviour difficult. Most were in favour of routine HIV testing being offered to patients, but against testing without consent. Most general practitioners considered consent unnecessary for the passing of information about HIV status between medical colleagues, but necessary for informing others, in particular the patient's family and sexual partners. Most general practitioners would accept high-risk and HIV-positive patients onto their lists but less than half would accept intravenous drug users. Most respondents did not feel at significant personal risk of HIV infection, but expressed reservations about many other aspects of HIV infection in general practice. If practitioners are to fulfil their potential for tackling the problems of HIV infection, they need increased resources and a policy for education and training that is responsive to local needs.