It has been proposed that some host factors may affect the intracellular drug concentration leading to the inability of drug regimens to inhibit human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) replication in cells. Among them, two factors, whose description is the main aim of this review, have been considered during the last years with particular emphasis. They are: i) altered uptake and reduced activation of nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) in target cells, and ii) efflux of NRTIs and protease inhibitors (PIs) by cellular transporter molecules. In fact, several authors have shown that: changes in the activity of various purine and pyrimidine biosynthetic enzymes may occur in lymphocytes of HIV-infected patients; HIV-infected patients on prolonged treatment with nucleoside analogs, such as zidovudine, show significantly decreased activity of thymidine kinase compared to untreated HIV-infected persons; NRTI and PIs are substrates for the so-called multidrug membrane transporters. With regard to the latter issue, it is known that the ATP-binding cassette transporter proteins such as the P glycoprotein, and the newly discovered family of multidrug resistance-associated proteins (MRP 1-9) promote the active extracellular efflux of a wide variety of therapeutics and overexpression of some of them lowers intracellular concentration of PIs. In the very near future such mechanisms, called by most authors "cellular drug-resistance", might be taken into account, together with other immunological, virological and behavioral factors, to explain "drug failure" and/or the variability of response in HIV patients undergoing an antiretroviral treatment.