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To analyse prospectively the effect of highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) on CD4 T-cell responses in vitro and in vivo in HIV-infected patients.Prospective study with 49 protease inhibitor-naive adult patients. Data were collected at baseline and after 3 and 6 months of HAART.In vitro CD4 T-cell reactivity was analysed by stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells with several antigens. In vivo CD4 T-cell reactivity (delayed type hypersensitivity) was assessed by Multitest Merieux. Both measurements were correlated to CD4 (memory) T-cell count and HIV-1 viraemia.Restoration of specific CD4 T-cell proliferation was observed in most patients. The in vitro T-cell response was restored more frequently against antigens to which the immune system is constantly exposed (Candida albicans, Mycobacteriumtuberculosis, M. avium) as compared with a low-exposure antigen (tetanus toxoid). Overall, delayed type hypersensitivity detection rate increased under HAART. Multivariate analysis showed improvement of antigen-specific T-cell proliferation to be significantly associated with an increase in memory CD4 T-cells, whereas improvement of the delayed type hypersensitivity response was associated with a decrease in plasma HIV-1 RNA.HAART for 6 months restored antigen-specific CD4 T-cell response to several antigens. In vitro immune reconstitution was closely correlated with an increase in memory CD4 cells. Restoration of delayed type hypersensitivity was associated with suppression of viraemia. It appears that in addition to expansion of memory CD4 cells, suppression of viraemia following HAART may allow an improved inflammatory reaction, thus providing even stronger immune reconstitution.