One of the most important opportunistic pathogens associated with AIDS is the Mycobacterium avium complex. M. avium infections are found in up to 70% of individuals in advanced stages of AIDS. The deficiency in our knowledge of these mycobacteria presents an obstacle to the development of a rational approach for controlling these life-threatening infections in immunocompromised persons. It is apparent that M. avium can replicate in host macrophages and persist for long periods. During this time, various components, particularly lipids, accumulate in host macrophages and contribute to the ability of this organism to upset the cytokine homeostasis necessary for controlling infections of this type. M. avium lipids are immunosuppressive and can induce a variety of cytokines and eicosanoids that affect general host responses. The intention of this review is to examine the postphagocytic processing of various M. avium lipids with respect to their ability to alter host responses, particularly in immunocompromised patients such as those infected with HIV.