According to the latest UNAIDS figures for 1999 there were an estimated 30. 6 million people living with HIV-1, with 16000 new HIV infections per day. The only global strategy of combating new HIV infections is to make a vaccine that is affordable to developing countries, where greater than 90% of new infections occur, and that has enough efficacy to interrupt high rates of transmission. This review critically examines: 1) important immune parameters that should be considered which will allow an understanding of preventative vaccine design and 2) the mechanisms underlying immune destruction during HIV-1 infection that will facilitate design of therapeutic vaccines. A realistic goal of a preventative vaccine is to elicit protective immune responses in vaccinees that would prevent HIV-1 from replicating extensively in the host. Components of protective immunity are thought to include neutralizing antibodies (NAB) and cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL). Rethinking vaccine strategies has to take into account that HIV-1 vaccines must elicit primary cellular and humoral immunity via dendritic cell and Langerhan cell priming. It is only under these conditions that boosting immunity with subsequent vaccinations will allow high enough CTL effector cells and NAB titres to impede or to prevent HIV-1 replication. Success of therapeutic vaccine strategies, has to take into consideration the pathology of persistent immune stimulation by chronic HIV-1 infection. To re-stimulate immunity and re-direct immune responses, chronic immune stimulation by HIV-1 has to be alleviated by reducing high levels of viral antigen presentation by suppressing virus with antiretroviral agents. Such treatment courses may only have to be transient, long enough for immunity to respond to an immunogenic stimulus. Short-course drug therapy may then be an affordable option for many countries already carrying a high burden of HIV-1/AIDS.