According to consensus, initiation of therapy is best based on CD4 cell count, a marker of immune status, rather than on viral load, a marker of virologic replication. For patients with advanced symptoms, treatment should be started regardless of CD4 count. However, the point during the course of HIV infection at which antiretroviral therapy (ART) is best initiated in asymptomatic patients remains unclear. Guidelines issued by various agencies provide different initiation recommendations according to resource availability. This can be confusing for clinicians and policy-makers when determining the best time to initiate therapy. Optimizing the initiation of ART is clearly complex and must, therefore, be balanced between individual and broader public health needs.