The antiretroviral agent, tenofovir, formulated as a vaginal microbicide gel, reduces human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) acquisition by 39% in women. This study assessed the role of preexisting immune activation in HIV acquisition in women from the CAPRISA 004 trial, to identify potential strategies to increase the effectiveness of tenofovir gel. Systemic cytokine and cellular immune mediators (platelets and natural killer [NK] cells) were assessed in women at high risk for HIV assigned to either tenofovir or placebo gel in the CAPRISA 004 trial. Notwithstanding tenofovir gel use, women who acquired HIV had significantly higher systemic innate immune activation prior to infection than women who remained uninfected. Activation of both soluble (cytokine) and cellular (NK cells) immune mediators were associated with HIV acquisition, individually or in combination. Hence, an innate immune activation suppressant could be added to tenofovir gel as a potential combination gel strategy in developing the next generation of higher efficacy antiretroviral microbicides.