BACKGROUND: The 2NN Study was a randomised comparison of the non-nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI) nevirapine and efavirenz. METHODS: In this multicentre, open-label, randomised trial, 1216 antiretroviral-therapy-naive patients were assigned nevirapine 400 mg once daily, nevirapine 200 mg twice daily, efavirenz 600 mg once daily, or nevirapine (400 mg) and efavirenz (800 mg) once daily, plus stavudine and lamivudine, for 48 weeks. The primary endpoint was the proportion of patients with treatment failure (less than 1 log(10) decline in plasma HIV-1 RNA in the first 12 weeks or two consecutive measurements of more than 50 copies per mL from week 24 onwards, disease progression [new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grade C event or death], or change of allocated treatment). Analyses were by intention to treat. FINDINGS: Treatment failure occurred in 96 (43.6%) of 220 patients assigned nevirapine once daily, 169 (43.7%) of 387 assigned nevirapine twice daily, 151 (37.8%) of 400 assigned efavirenz, and 111 (53.1%) of 209 assigned nevirapine plus efavirenz. The difference between nevirapine twice daily and efavirenz was 5.9% (95% CI -0.9 to 12.8). There were no significant differences among the study groups in the proportions with plasma HIV-1 RNA concentrations below 50 copies per mL at week 48 (p=0.193) or the increases in CD4-positive cells (p=0.800). Nevirapine plus efavirenz was associated with the highest frequency of clinical adverse events, and nevirapine once daily with significantly more hepatobiliary laboratory toxicities than efavirenz. Of 25 observed deaths, two were attributed to nevirapine. INTERPRETATION: Antiretroviral therapy with nevirapine or efavirenz showed similar efficacy, so triple-drug regimens with either NNRTI are valid for first-line treatment. There are, however, differences in safety profiles. Combination of nevirapine and efavirenz did not improve efficacy but caused more adverse events.