The development of antiretroviral therapy against acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has been an intense research effort since the discovery of the causative agent, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A large array of drugs and biologic substances can inhibit HIV replication in vitro. Nucleoside analogs--particularly those belonging to the dideoxynucleoside family--can inhibit reverse transcriptase after anabolic phosphorylation. 3'-Azido-2',3'-dideoxythymidine (AZT) was the first such drug tested in individuals with AIDS, and considerable knowledge of structure-activity relations has emerged for this class of drugs. However, virtually every step in the replication of HIV could serve as a target for a new therapeutic intervention. In the future, non-nucleoside-type drugs will likely become more important in the experimental therapy of AIDS, and antiretroviral therapy will exert major effects against the morbidity and mortality caused by HIV.