While telomerase (hTERT) activity is absent from normal somatic cells, reactivation of hTERT expression is a hallmark of cancer cells. Telomerase activity is required for avoiding replicative senescence and supports immortalization of cellular proliferation. Only a minority of cancer cells rely on a telomerase-independent process known as alternative lengthening of telomeres, ALT, to sustain cancer cell proliferation. Multiple genetic, epigenetic, and viral mechanisms have been found to de-regulate telomerase gene expression, thereby increasing the risk of cellular transformation. Here, we review the different strategies used by the Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1, HTLV-I, to activate hTERT expression and stimulate its enzymatic activity in virally infected CD4 T cells. The implications of hTERT reactivation in HTLV-I pathogenesis and disease treatment are discussed.