In HIV infection, TLR7-triggered IFN-α production exerts a direct antiviral effect through the inhibition of viral replication, but may also be involved in immune pathogenesis leading to AIDS. TLR7 could also be an important mediator of vaccine efficacy. In this study, we analyzed polymorphisms in the X-linked TLR7 gene in the rhesus macaque model of AIDS. Upon resequencing of the TLR7 gene in 36 rhesus macaques of Indian origin, 12 polymorphic sites were detected. Next, we identified three tightly linked single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) as being associated with survival time. Genotyping of 119 untreated, simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV)-infected male rhesus macaques, including an 'MHC adjusted' subset, revealed that the three TLR7 SNPs are also significantly associated with set-point viral load. Surprisingly, this effect was not observed in 72 immunized SIV-infected male monkeys. We hypothesize (i) that SNP c.13G>A in the leader peptide is causative for the observed genotype-phenotype association and that (ii) the underlying mechanism is related to RNA secondary structure formation. Therefore, we investigated a fourth SNP (c.-17C>T), located 17 bp upstream of the ATG translation initiation codon, that is also potentially capable of influencing RNA structure. In c.13A carriers, neither set-point viral load nor survival time were related to the c.-17C>T genotype. In c.13G carriers, by contrast, the c.-17C allele was significantly associated with prolonged survival. Again, no such association was detected among immunized SIV-infected macaques. Our results highlight the dual role of TLR7 in immunodeficiency virus infection and vaccination and imply that it may be important to control human AIDS vaccine trials, not only for MHC genotype, but also for TLR7 genotype.