Background: Gene therapy has the potential to counter problems that still hamper standard HIV antiretroviral therapy, such as toxicity, patient adherence and the development of resistance. RNA interference can suppress HIV replication as a gene therapeutic via expressed short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs). It is now clear that multiple shRNAs will likely be required to suppress infection and prevent the emergence of resistant virus.Results: We have developed the first biologically relevant stochastic model in which multiple shRNAs are introduced into CD34+ hematopoietic stem cells. This model has been used to track the production of gene-containing CD4+ T cells, the degree of HIV infection, and the development of HIV resistance in lymphoid tissue for 13 years. In this model, we found that at least four active shRNAs were required to suppress HIV infection/replication effectively and prevent the development of resistance. The inhibition of incoming virus was shown to be critical for effective treatment. The low potential for resistance development that we found is largely due to a pool of replicating wild-type HIV that is maintained in non-gene containing CD4+ T cells. This wild-type HIV effectively out-competes emerging viral strains, maintaining the viral status quo.Conclusions: The presence of a group of cells that lack the gene therapeutic and is available for infection by wild-type virus appears to mitigate the development of resistance observed with systemic antiretroviral therapy.