We investigated the association between plasma HIV-1 RNA, immune activation, and polyclonal T cell function in viremic subjects whether on or off antiretroviral therapy (ART). The surface expression of activation/functional molecules on T cells and monocytes as well as cytokine secretion and T cell proliferation were assessed in 23 HIV-1(-) and 79 HIV-1(+)-infected subjects with different levels of viral suppression and CD4(+) T cell count >250 cells/mm(3) for >6 months. Viral replication was associated with increased T cell and monocyte activation irrespective of ART. In subjects with a detectable viral load on ART, we found a positive association with anti-CD3/CD28-induced T cell proliferation compared to patients with undetectable viral load (<400 copies/ml). No difference among groups was observed for anti-CD3/CD28-mediated IFN-gamma responses. The presence of an unexpected positive association between polyclonal T cell proliferation and viral load in subjects with levels of T cell IFN-gamma responses comparable to those of uninfected subjects is of potential relevance to an increase in T cell activation response before the loss of polyclonal cytokine secretion and proliferation observed with disease progression. This finding suggests that T cell hyperresponsiveness may play a role in the pathogenesis of immune comorbidities on ART.