This study compares the predictive power of a single measurement of CD8+CD38+, CD8+CD45RO+ or CD8+CD38+CD45RO+ subpopulations in predicting progression to AIDS in a cohort of HIV+ long-term surviving injecting drug users. The results showed that both the total CD8+ percentage, and the CD8+CD38+ and CD8+CD38+CD45RO+ subpopulations of cells all individually predicted progression to AIDS. In combination with CD4, only the CD8+CD38+ subpopulation enhanced the predictive power of the CD4 percentage alone. The CD8+ percentage correlated negatively with the CD4 percentage and the CD8+CD45RO+ subpopulation did not predict disease progression. The proportion of CD8+CD38+ cells identified which patients with a moderate CD4 level were more likely to progress to AIDS, and conversely, which patients with a low CD4 count were likely to remain clinically stable. The results were consistent irrespective of whether time was measured from the date of seroconversion, or from the date of the test. This study is the first to measure these markers in HIV-infected injecting drug users, and in long-term survivors. The results demonstrate the considerable added value of the CD8+CD38+ cell percentage over the CD4 count alone, in predicting HIV clinical progression.