Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, there were only a few studies addressing the relationship of health care professionals and patients with AIDS from the patient's viewpoint. This descriptive, qualitative study explored patients' perceptions and experiences with physicians and nurses on an AIDS-designated unit in New York City. The data reveal patients' physical and emotional images and expectations of physicians and nurses. In meeting their needs, patients expect physicians and nurses to attend to their physical needs as the priority but do not expect them to address their emotional and social needs. Although patients appreciate recognition of their spiritual needs, they attempt to avoid discussions about religion. Patients characterized "special" and "difficult" physicians and nurses. Patients emphasized the importance of establishing a caring relationship through the professionals' therapeutic use of self. With knowledge of what is valued by patients in their relationship with physicians and nurses, health professionals have an opportunity to reflect on their own caregiving experiences and learn ways of enriching and supporting those relationships with the intent of improving the quality of care.