We have characterized an assay measuring CD8 T cell-mediated inhibition of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) type 1 replication, demonstrating specificity and reproducibility and employing a panel of primary HIV-1 isolates. The assay uses relatively simple autologous cell culture and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, avoids generation of T cell clones, and can be performed with <2 million peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Efficient CD8 T cell-mediated cross-clade inhibition of HIV-1 replication in vitro was demonstrated in antiretroviral therapy-naive HIV-1-infected subjects with controlled viral replication in vivo but not in viremic subjects. An HIV-1 vaccine candidate, consisting of DNA and recombinant adenovirus 5 vectors tested in a phase I clinical trial, induced CD8 T cells that efficiently inhibited HIV-1 in a HLA-I-dependent manner. Assessment of direct antiviral T cell function by this assay provides additional information to guide vaccine design and the prioritizing of candidates for further clinical trials.