There are limited data on the efficacy of T cell-based assays to detect tuberculosis (TB) antigen-specific responses in immune-deficient human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) patients. The aim of this study is to determine whether TB antigen-specific immune responses can be detected in patients with HIV-1 infection, especially in those with advanced disease (CD4 T cell count < 300 cells/microl). An enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay, which detects interferon (IFN)-gamma secreted by T cells exposed to TB antigens, was used to assess specific immune responses in a prospective study of 201 HIV-1-infected patients with risk factors for TB infection, attending a single HIV unit. The performance of the ELISPOT assay to detect TB antigen-specific immune responses is independent of CD4 T cell counts in HIV-1 patients. The sensitivity and specificity of this assay for the diagnosis of active tuberculosis does not differ significantly from values obtained in immunocompetent subjects. The negative predictive value of the TB ELISPOT test is 98.2%. A positive predictive value of 86% for the diagnosis of active tuberculosis was found when the combined number of early secretory antigen target-6 (ESAT-6) and culture filtrate protein-10 (CFP-10) IFN-gamma spots to CD4 T cell count ratio was > 1.5. TB antigen-specific immune responses can be detected in HIV patients with low CD4 T cell counts using ELISPOT technology in a routine diagnostic laboratory and is a useful test to exclude TB infection in immune-deficient HIV-1 patients. A combination of TB antigen-specific IFN-gamma responses and CD4 T cell counts has the potential to distinguish active tuberculosis from latent infection.