Eighty-five subjects with symptomatic primary (P) human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 infection were analyzed in a retrospective cohort study to investigate the long-term clinical benefit of antiretroviral treatment during PHIV infection. Zidovudine treatment was initiated (PHIV treatment group) in 21 persons a median of 9 days after onset of PHIV symptoms and continued for a median of 55 days (range, 21-99). Sixty-four subjects did not receive early antiretroviral treatment (PHIV nontreatment group). After follow-up for 3-10 years, 33 subjects had developed AIDS and 22 subjects had died of AIDS. The median times for progression to AIDS and death were 6.4 and 9.1 years, respectively. Progression rates did not differ between the PHIV treatment and nontreatment groups. Zidovudine treatment initiated during PHIV infection did not improve long-term outcome after symptomatic PHIV infection.