UNLABELLED WHAT IS ALREADY KNOWN ABOUT THIS SUBJECT: * In previous work, we showed a long-term and concentration-dependent beneficial effect of the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor efavirenz (EFV) on high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients. * Furthermore, it has been suggested that instead of the current practice of only measuring HDL-chelesterol values, the evaluation of HDL function, namely its antioxidant properties, might be an improved tool for identifying subjects at increased risk for cardiovascular events. * Paraoxonase-1 (PON-1) is an enzyme associated with HDL that is responsible for HDL antioxidant function. WHAT THIS STUDY ADDS * In the present work, we studied the effect of EFV on the activity of PON-1 and showed, for the first time, that EFV-based antiretroviral therapy is associated with a better antioxidant function, i.e. with a higher PON-1 activity. AIMS A long-term and concentration-dependent beneficial effect of efavirenz (EFV) on cholesterol associated with high-density lipoprotein (HDL-c) in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients has been documented. Furthermore, it has been suggested that, instead of the current practice of only measuring HDL-c values, the evaluation of HDL quality might be an improved tool for identifying subjects at increased risk of cardiovascular events. Paraoxonase-1 (PON-1) is an enzyme associated with HDL that is involved in the onset of cardiovascular disease and responsible for HDL antioxidant function. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of EFV on the circulating activity of PON-1 in HIV-infected patients. METHODS The patients included were adults with a documented HIV-1 infection, nontreated or treated with antiretroviral regimens including EFV 600 mg once daily as first therapeutic regimen for at least 3 months. The influence of treatment with EFV, HDL-c and CD4 cell count on PON-1 activity was analysed. RESULTS HIV-infected White patients treated with EFV had higher PON-1 activity [77.35 U l(-1) (65.66, 89.04)] (P < 0.05) and higher PON-1 activity : HDL-c ratio [1.88 (1.49, 2.28)] (P < 0.01) than untreated patients. PON-1 activity was higher in Black patients (P < 0.001) and in patients with a CD4 cell count >500 cells ml(-1) (P= 0.0120). CONCLUSIONS EFV-based antiretroviral regimens are associated with HDL particles with a better antioxidant function, i.e. with a higher PON-1 activity. The PON-1 activity of Black patients is higher than that found in Whites regardless of treatment. Ethnicity should be taken into consideration when studying drug effects on PON-1 activity.