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To assess the feasibility and impact of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) started in vertically HIV-1-infected infants less than 3 months of age.Adverse events, plasma HIV-1 RNA, CD4 cell counts, CD4 cell percentage (CD4%) and clinical progression were recorded at baseline and prospectively to 72 weeks in order to assess the toxicity, tolerability and efficacy of a combination of stavudine, didanosine and nelfinavir. Selection of genotypic resistance was also investigated.Twenty infants, of whom only three had Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stage B, initiated HAART at median age 2.5 months (range, 0.9-4.7) with median HIV-1 RNA concentration 5.5 log10 copies/ml (range, 3.2-6.8) and CD4% 33% (range, 11-66). Median follow-up was 96 weeks (range, 60-144). At week 72, 11 infants were still taking the original treatment. Few adverse events were reported related to treatment, all minor and causing treatment interruption in only three infants. No AIDS-defining events occurred; one child died of non-HIV-related causes (prematurity). All but two had CD4% > 25% at 72 weeks; however, 14 infants had virological failure and six acquired resistance mutations.Early treatment with stavudine, didanosine and nelfinavir was well tolerated and associated with good clinical and immunological outcomes at week 72. However, a high rate of virological failure with emergence of genotypic resistance is of great concern. More palatable drug combinations for infants and closer drug monitoring are required.