Interleukin 16 (IL-16) was initially described in 1982 as the first T cell chemoattractant. Through interaction with CD4, IL-16 has now been characterized as a chemoattractant for a variety of CD4+ immune cells. Recent in vivo studies have more fully characterized IL-16 as an immunomodulatory cytokine that contributes to the regulatory process of CD4+ cell recruitment and activation at sites of inflammation in association with asthma and several autoimmune diseases. Since its cloning in 1994, IL-16 structure and function have been studied extensively. This review addresses the current data regarding IL-16 protein and gene structure; the expanding list of cells capable of generating IL-16; the direct interaction of IL-16 with its receptor, CD4; and the functional bioactivities of IL-16 as they relate to inflammation and HIV-1 infection. In addition, potential therapeutic modalities for IL-16 relating to inflammation and immune reconstitution in HIV-1 infection are also discussed.