BACKGROUND : Antiretroviral therapy (ART) was rolled-out in Ethiopia in 2005, but there are no reports on outcome of ART and human immunodeficiency virus drug resistance (HIVDR) at national level. We described acquired drug resistance mutations in pol gene and performed a viral genome wide association study in virologic treatment failure patients who started first line ART during 2009-2011 in the first large countrywide HIV cohort in Ethiopia. METHODS : The outcome of tenofovir (TDF)- and zidovudine (ZDV)-based ART was defined in 874 ART naïve patients using the on-treatment (OT) and intention-to-treat (ITT) analyses. Genotypic resistance testing was done in patients failing ART (> 1000 copies/ml) at month 6 and 12. Near full-length genome sequencing (NFLG) was used to assess amino acid changes in HIV-1 gag, pol, vif, vpr, tat, vpu, and nef genes between paired baseline and month 6 samples. RESULTS : High failure rates were found in ITT analysis at month 6 and 12 (23.3%; 33.9% respectively). Major nucleoside and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase (NRTI/NNRTI) drug resistance mutations were detected in most failure patients at month 6 (36/47; 77%) and month 12 (20/30; 67%). A high rate of K65R was identified only in TDF treated patients (35.7%; 50.0%, respectively). No significant difference was found in failure rate or extent of HIVDR between TDF- and ZDV- treated patients. All target regions of interest for HIVDR were described by NFLG in 16 patients tested before initiation of ART and at month 6. CONCLUSIONS : In this first Ethiopian national cohort, a high degree of HIVDR was seen among ART failure patients, independent on whether TDF- or ZDV was given. However, the major reason to ART failure was lost-to-follow-up rather than virologic failure. Our NFLG assay covered all relevant target genes for antiretrovirals and is an attractive alternative for HIVDR surveillance.