Evidence of a latent human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection in healthy, seropositive individuals who do not have viral antigens in their sera and from whom virions cannot be rescued in cocultivation experiments was examined. Proviral DNA was detected by amplification by the polymerase chain reaction procedure. In each of 10 seropositive individuals, the presence of HIV-1 proviral sequences was demonstrated in their peripheral blood mononuclear cells. By using fluorescence-activated cell sorting, we obtained highly enriched subpopulations of peripheral blood mononuclear cells and found that the CD4+ T-cell subset is the cell subset that consistently harbors the HIV-1 proviral sequences. The number of HIV-1-infected CD4+ T cells was variable among the 10 healthy individuals, ranging from 1 in 100 to 1 in 40,000. While in vitro infection of CD4+ T cells causes down regulation and eventual loss of CD4 surface molecules, this is not true in vivo where it is only the CD4+ population that harbors the virus. This disparity may reflect differences between a latent infection in vivo with the lytic response of cells infected in vitro.