OBJECTIVE: To assess the incidence and epidemiological pattern of respiratory viruses in HIV-infected patients and to evaluate their potential clinical impact. DESIGN AND METHODS: A prospective population-based cohort study was conducted at three Swiss university hospitals. Study participants were HIV-infected patients who underwent a bronchoalveolar lavage to rule out an opportunistic event. All bronchoalveolar lavage specimens were screened using a set of real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assays targeting 17 different respiratory viruses. RESULTS: Between November 2003 and November 2006, 59 bronchoalveolar episodes from 55 HIV-infected patients were analysed. Eleven of 59 episodes (18.6%) were positive for at least one respiratory virus. Coronavirus OC43 was identified in three cases (27.3%) followed by influenza A in two (18.2%). Parainfluenza virus (PIV) 2, PIV 3, PIV 4, bocavirus, human rhinovirus A and human metapneumovirus were each identified in one case (9%). In the majority of these cases (63.6%) no other concomitant microorganism was isolated. CONCLUSIONS: Clinical investigation of respiratory viral infections in HIV-infected patients should not be restricted to prototype viruses and also need to target all the different family of viruses as it seems likely that these viruses contribute to pulmonary complications and morbidity in this population.