Aims: Prior studies have shown that HAART is associated with decreased HIV viral load in the lungs. The correlation between antiretroviral exposure in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and virologic response was evaluated in patients starting HAART and enrolled in The AIDS Clinical Trial Group Protocol 723. Materials & methods: A total of 24 subjects underwent blood and BAL sampling prior to starting HAART, and after 4 and 24 weeks of HAART. Drug concentrations and HIV RNA were measured in paired plasma and BAL samples. Results: Antiretroviral drugs, including efavirenz, were detectable in BAL fluid of HIV-infected subjects beginning HAART. Efavirenz was also associated with a higher likelihood of clearing HIV RNA from the lungs. Conclusion: These results suggest the excellent pulmonary virologic response to antiretroviral therapy may, in part, be due to penetration of antiretroviral drugs into the alveolar compartment. © 2010 Future Medicine Ltd.