Transmission of drug-resistant pathogens presents an almost-universal challenge for fighting infectious diseases. Transmitted drug resistance mutations (TDRM) can persist in the absence of drugs for considerable time. It is generally believed that differential TDRM-persistence is caused, at least partially, by variations in TDRM-fitness-costs. However, in vivo epidemiological evidence for the impact of fitness costs on TDRM-persistence is rare. Here, we studied the persistence of TDRM in HIV-1 using longitudinally-sampled nucleotide sequences from the Swiss-HIV-Cohort-Study (SHCS). All treatment-naïve individuals with TDRM at baseline were included. Persistence of TDRM was quantified via reversion rates (RR) determined with interval-censored survival models. Fitness costs of TDRM were estimated in the genetic background in which they occurred using a previously published and validated machine-learning algorithm (based on in vitro replicative capacities) and were included in the survival models as explanatory variables. In 857 sequential samples from 168 treatment-naïve patients, 17 TDRM were analyzed. RR varied substantially and ranged from 174.0/100-person-years;CI=[51.4, 588.8] (for 184V) to 2.7/100-person-years;[0.7, 10.9] (for 215D). RR increased significantly with fitness cost (increase by 1.6[1.3,2.0] per standard deviation of fitness costs). When subdividing fitness costs into the average fitness cost of a given mutation and the deviation from the average fitness cost of a mutation in a given genetic background, we found that both components were significantly associated with reversion-rates. Our results show that the substantial variations of TDRM persistence in the absence of drugs are associated with fitness-cost differences both among mutations and among different genetic backgrounds for the same mutation.