AIDS is a main health problem of the recent century and is now considered a very important cause for mortality and morbidity among young people. The aim of this research is to determine the Turkish university students knowledge, sexual risk behavior, attitude towards AIDS and educational needs concerning AIDS. A cross-sectional exploratory design is utilized in this study. One thousand four hundred and twenty-seven university new registrants from the Middle East Technical University participated and answered a 32-item self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire addressed sociodemographics, sexual risk behavior, self-assessed knowledge on HIV transmission and AIDS, attitudes towards AIDS infection and AIDS patient, source of information and need for AIDS course. The response rate was 84%. Two hundred and seventy-one (19%) participants had sexual intercourse. Eighty-one (30%) participants reported condom use during the last encounter. Seven hundred and twenty-four (51%) stated they knew "very much" about AIDS. Students of faculty of engineering (n = 384, 69%), economic and administrative sciences (n = 115, 55%), and architecture (n = 42, 52%) declared they knew "very much" on AIDS and had a higher frequency as the students from the faculty of arts and sciences (it = 119, 43%) and education (n = 64, 40%). Television was reported as the major source of information about AIDS (n = 871, 61%). Students in faculty of education had lower scores than others (P = 0.01). Almost all students stated that there should be a course on AIDS in their curriculum. Educational and medical institutions are the minor information sources for students at universities. Therefore, schools have to integrate new courses on AIDS and sexual health in their curricula, physicians caring for these students have to take more time for health education. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.