Some individuals in well-defined cohorts have now been infected with HIV-1 for well over a decade and yet remain clinically asymptomatic with normal CD4 counts. To determine immunologic and virologic parameters in these individuals, we examined 10 persons from the San Francisco City Clinic with firmly documented infection of 11-15 years duration who had maintained stable CD4 counts above 500 cells/microliters. Our results indicate that long-term nonprogressors are a heterogeneous group with respect to viral load and HIV-1-specific immune responses, and that progression can occur even after 15 years of stable infection. However, in a subset of persons with the lowest viral loads and persistent nonprogressive infection, we detected strong CTL responses, whereas neutralizing antibody studies revealed weak to undetectable titers against a panel of 10 primary isolates. This study demonstrates that a vigorous in vivo activated HIV-1-specific CTL response can be part of the host immune response in stable nonprogressive HIV-1 infection, and that circulating activated CTL can be detected in the setting of an extremely low viral load. These results also indicate that long-term nonprogressing HIV-1 infection does not require the presence of broadly cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies.