Patients with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection develop an immunologic thrombocytopenic purpura associated with markedly elevated platelet IgG, IgM, and C3C4 as well as serum immune complexes determined by the polyethylene glycol (PEG) method. Analysis of their serum PEG-precipitable immune complexes as well as platelet acid eluates revealed the presence of anti-HIV-1 antibody existing as a complex that eluted in the void volume of a Sephadex G-200 gel-filtration column. The complex binds to washed normal platelets, whereas affinity-purified anti-HIV-1 (gp120) antibody does not. HIV-1 antigen or proviral DNA was not detectable in the immune complexes or platelet extracts. However, anti-antibodies directed against anti-HIV-1 antibody were detectable in the immune complexes as well as platelet eluates. Approximately 50% of eluted platelet IgG contained anti-HIV-1 antibody. Thus the markedly elevated platelet immunoglobulin is partly due to the presence of anti-HIV-1 antibody complexes. This may be responsible for the enhanced platelet clearance and thrombocytopenia in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome-related immunologic thrombocytopenia.