Debates are still being waged over what is the best strategy for developing a potent AIDS vaccine. All the obvious approaches to making AIDS vaccines have been tried in the past two decades without much success. It is clear that new thinking and a revision of prevailing dogmas needs to be in place if we really want a vaccine. Conventional envelope-based antibody-inducing vaccines do not appear to hold promise, and broadly-neutralizing antibodies are now being searched as an alternative to the failed approach with subunit vaccines. The current consensus is that cellular immune responses, especially those mediated by CD8 cytotoxic/suppressor (CTL) and CD4 helper T lymphocytes, are needed to control HIV. Vaccines capable of inducing cell-mediated responses are, therefore, considered critical for controlling the spread of HIV. DNA-based vaccines triggering CTL reaction are currently thought to be an answer, but will they fulfill the promise? In the following paragraphs, a critical assessment of the state of the art will be provided in an attempt to analyze what we know and still don't know. The focus of this review is primarily on mucosal vaccines-a relatively new area in AIDS research. The update on V-1 Immunitor, the first mucosal AIDS vaccine available commercially, is provided within this context. Some of the reviewed concepts may be disputable, but without departure from the uninspiring consensus no substantial progress in the AIDS vaccine field can be envisioned.