The evolution of antiviral therapy began with developments in the management of influenza and herpes simplex keratitis in the 1960s and early 1970s. However, the field exploded with the successful treatment of herpes simplex encephalitis, herpes zoster and genital herpes simplex virus infections, all occurring in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These advances have contributed to the development of therapies for HIV that have transformed the lives of infected patients in recent years. The clinical fruit of all of these research advances has been an armamentarium of drugs that can be used to successfully treat a variety of viral illnesses. In addition to HIV/AIDS, current antiviral therapy focuses primarily on herpesviruses, hepatitis viruses and influenza. Notably, considerable progress remains to be made in these areas. Moreover, a variety of additional viral diseases currently require the development of specific therapies. © 2007 Future Drugs Ltd.