To define predictors of survival time in late human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) disease, long- and short-duration survivors were studied after their CD4+ T cells fell to </=50/mm3. Immune activation of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, as measured by elevated cell surface expression of CD38 antigen, was strongly associated with shorter subsequent survival (P</=.002). The naive CD45RA+CD62L+ T cell reserve was low in all subjects and did not predict survival (P=.34 for CD4+ and.08 for CD8+ cells). Higher virus burden correlated with CD8+ but not CD4+ cell activation and, after correcting for multiple comparisons, was not associated with shorter survival (P=.02). All of the patients' viruses used CCR5, CXCR4, or both, and coreceptor usage did not predict survival (P=. 27). Through mechanisms apparently unrelated to higher virus burden, immune activation is a major determinant of survival in advanced HIV-1 disease.