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A theory for the electronic band structure and the free-carrier optical gain of wurtzite-strained quantum-well lasers is presented. We take into account the strain-induced band-edge shifts and the realistic band structures of the GaN wurtzite crystals. The effective-mass Hamiltonian, the basis functions, the valence band structures, the interband momentum matrix elements, and the optical gain are presented with analytical expressions and numerical results for GaN-AlGaN strained quantum-well lasers. This theoretical model provides a foundation for investigating the electronic and optical properties of wurtzite-strained quantum-well lasers.