The expression of C3b receptors (CR1) on erythrocytes of gay men at various levels of risk for AIDS was studied. Fourty-nine heterosexual male controls had a mean (X) ± standard deviation of 516 ± 136 CR1 per erythrocyte (CR1-3); 17 asymptomatic gay men had X = 423 ± 156, 16 gay men with one AIDS-related complex (ARC) symptom or sign had X = 342 ± 154, 9 patients with ARC had X = 252 ± 76, and 14 gay men with AIDS had X = 173 ± 76 CR1-E. The patients with ARC and AIDS had a highly significant decrease in CR1-E when compared with normal individuals (p = <0.001) and studies of families of 4 AIDS patients suggest that this defect is acquired.

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