We explored the relationship between the incidence of hospitalization and disease progression in a group of 140 symptomatic, HIV infected patients by linking hospitalizations to the time of diagnosis, the time of death, or both. The relationship could best be described by positively skewed U-patterns or (weak) J-patterns with a high use of resources immediately following diagnosis and preceding death. The lifetime hospitalization profiles differed according to the type of insurance, age, the initial diagnosis in the CDC-IV stage and the length of survival. The results not only confirm general hypotheses posed by other research groups, but also demonstrate the existence of variations among subgroups of patients. The results can be used to improve economic assessments of the impact of AIDS in The Netherlands and the European Union. The method used has the advantage of being based on a bottom-up approach to resource utilization, involving the use of prospective data for the patients' full lifespans, and can easily be applied to other areas of health services research.