Increasing clinical evidence is emerging that other persistent viral infections can act as important co-factors affecting the progression of human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1). It appears that hepatitis C (HCV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) have a deleterious effect on HIV progression, whereas hepatitis G (GBV-C) benefits HIV-1 progression. At the same time, the aggressive nature of HCV infection in HIV is clearly recognized. Here we discuss this clinical evidence and go on to review scientific work pertaining to these interactions in the context of the known and theoretical immunological effects of these viruses. This is discussed at the level of the generation of adaptive immune responses and their effector functions. It is clear that co-infection with persistent viral infections may pose special problems for the human immune system, as pathogenic effects may not be specific to the actual eliciting virus and can therefore multiply the difficulties faced by host defenses. We also highlight the need for further therapies for HIV/HCV co-infected persons, as this is currently a complex and severe syndrome.