An important role for selenium in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease has been proposed. Decreased selenium levels, as found in persons with HIV infection or AIDS, are sensitive markers of disease progression. Selenium deficiency, an independent predictor of mortality in both HIV-1-infected adults and children, is an essential micronutrient that is associated with an improvement of T cell function and reduced apoptosis in animal models. In addition, adequate selenium may enhance resistance to infections through modulation of interleukin (IL) production and subsequently the Th1/Th2 response. Selenium supplementation up-regulates IL-2 and increases activation, proliferation, differentiation, and programmed cell death of T helper cells. Moreover, selenium supplementation may down-regulate the abnormally high levels of IL-8 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha observed in HIV disease, which has been associated with neurologic damage, Kaposi's sarcoma, wasting syndrome, and increased viral replication. Together, these findings suggest a new mechanism through which selenium may affect HIV-1 disease progression.