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Atazanavir, an azapeptide protease inhibitor (PI), has pharmacokinetics that allow once-daily dosing, and it is not associated with significant PI-associated dyslipidemia.A randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, active-controlled, 2-arm study comparing the antiviral efficacy and safety of atazanavir 400 mg administered once daily with efavirenz 600 mg administered once daily in combination with open-label fixed-dose zidovudine plus lamivudine twice daily. The 810 treatment-naive patients were stratified by HIV RNA level. The primary efficacy end point was the proportion of treated patients with HIV RNA levels <400 copies/mL through week 48.At week 48, HIV RNA levels were <400 copies/mL in 70% of patients receiving atazanavir and 64% of patients receiving efavirenz (intent-to-treat, difference; 95% confidence interval: 5.2%; −1.2%, 11.7%). Median CD4+ cell counts increased at comparable magnitudes and rates in the 2 treatment arms (mean change at week 48: 176 cells/mm3 with atazanavir, 160 cells/mm3 with efavirenz). Atazanavir-treated patients relative to comparator-treated patients did not demonstrate significant increases in total cholesterol, fasting low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or fasting triglycerides over 48 weeks of therapy. Atazanavir-linked bilirubin elevations infrequently resulted in treatment discontinuation (<1%). Atazanavir treatment did not increase fasting glucose or insulin levels.For initial HIV treatment, a highly active antiretroviral therapy regimen of atazanavir/zidovudine/lamivudine is as efficacious and well tolerated as the combination of efavirenz/zidovudine/lamivudine.