The HIV-1 gp41 protein promotes viral entry by mediating the fusion of viral and cellular membranes. A prominent pocket on the surface of a central trimeric coiled coil within gp41 was previously identified as a potential target for drugs that inhibit HIV-1 entry. We designed a peptide, IQN17, which properly presents this pocket. Utilizing IQN17 and mirror-image phage display, we identified cyclic, D-peptide inhibitors of HIV-1 infection that share a sequence motif. A 1.5 A cocrystal structure of IQN17 in complex with a D-peptide, and NMR studies, show that conserved residues of these inhibitors make intimate contact with the gp41 pocket. Our studies validate the pocket per se as a target for drug development. IQN17 and these D-peptide inhibitors are likely to be useful for development and identification of a new class of orally bioavailable anti-HIV drugs.