Current candidate vaccines fail to protect primates against challenge with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the presence of antibody responses; this underlines the importance of studying cell-mediated immunity to HIV and identifying specific epitopes that stimulate cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). Using a recombinant vaccinia virus to express the gag protein of HIV-1 we found HLA class-I-restricted gag-specific CTL in thirteen out of fifteen healthy HIV seropositive patients. We then used short synthetic peptides in the lysis assay to screen for gag CTL epitopes. In one patient we have identified a peptide in p24 that is recognized by CTL in association with HLA-B27. This peptide, and further peptide sequences defined by these methods, could be incorporated in vaccines designed to induce cell-mediated immunity against HIV.