We characterized the virologic failure after an initially successful 48-week course of antiretroviral therapy among HIV/AIDS patients in a retrospective cohort study involving patients from Santos, Brazil. Patients with plasma HIV RNA below 500 copies/mL for 48 weeks were included. Variables analyzed included gender, age, level of education, marital status, mode of HIV acquisition, viral load, and CD4 cell count upon admission. There were 4,909 patients registered with the clinic, of which 669 patients met all the inclusion criteria (41.6% female and 58.4% male). Only 27.5% of the patients maintained undetectable viral loads during up to one year of follow-up. After 48 weeks, virologic failure occurred earlier in females and in patients first treated with an antiretroviral regimen other than highly active antiretroviral therapy. Patients who were married or had a steady partner experienced virologic failure later than did those who were separated or widowed. The percentage of public health clinic patients who maintain undetectable viral loads for a period of over a year is much lower than that observed among patients enrolled in clinical trials. Females, individuals in unstable relationships, single individuals and widowed individuals should be given special attention in order to improve durability of viral suppression.