The level of CD4(+) T-lymphocytes represents a useful marker with which to monitor the progression of HIV infection. Sex and geographical differences in the reference values of lymphocyte subsets have been reported. We have compared two flow cytometric methods (MultiSET and SimulSET) for the quantification of lymphocyte subsets using whole blood from 92 HIV seropositive and 241 seronegative adults, and determined the reference values of lymphocyte subsets in HIV seronegative Tanzanian subjects. In seronegative Tanzanian subjects, the percentages of CD3(+) and CD4(+) T-lymphocytes and the CD4(+):CD8(+) T-lymphocyte ratios were lower while the percentage of natural killer cells was higher compared to the levels of the corresponding parameters reported for Europeans. Seronegative Tanzanian females had significantly higher levels of CD3(+) and CD4(+) T-lymphocytes and CD4(+):CD8(+) T-lymphocyte ratios compared to seronegative males. The correlation coefficients of CD3(+), CD4(+) and CD8(+) T lymphocyte counts and percentages obtained by the two flow cytometric methods were high. The median values of the number of CD4(+) T-lymphocytes obtained by the two methods were not significantly different. In conclusion, determination of the reference values of lymphocyte subsets in HIV seronegative Tanzanian adults showed significant sex differences and differences in percentage values compared to those reported in certain other geographical areas. There was acceptable agreement in the levels of CD4(+) T-lymphocyte values obtained by the two flow cytometric methods.