Recent studies indicate that a defective proliferative response of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells is associated with the lack of virologic control in chronic HIV infection in humans. The possible mechanisms that might be responsible for the reduced proliferative potential of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells and conditions conducive to the proliferation of CD8+ T cells were examined in 14 HIV-infected individuals and 7 HIV-uninfected controls using CFSE labeling and flow cytometry techniques, and analyzed data using 2 quantitative measurements: the percentages of proliferating CD8+ T cells (Tp), and the maximum number of cell divisions (Dm) after stimulation. It was found that CD8+ T cells from HIV-infected and -uninfected subjects proliferated equally well after polyclonal stimulation by phylohemagglutinin A (PHA); both groups reached a Tp of 92%-96% and a Dm of 5-8. However, in HIV-infected subjects, proliferation of HIV- and CMV-specific CD8+ T cells was significantly reduced compared to proliferation of CMV-specific CD8+ T cells from HIV-uninfected subjects. These defective proliferative responses of HIV- and CMV-specific CD8+ T cells were restored by the addition of IL-2 at the time of stimulation. These results may have implications for the design of immune modulation strategies in vivo. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.