High-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) has been identified in population studies as an independent inverse predictor of cardiovascular events. Although the causal nature of this association has been questioned, HDL and its major protein, apolipoprotein (apo)A1, have been shown to prevent and reverse atherosclerosis in animal models. In addition, HDL and apoA1 have several putatively atheroprotective functions, such as the ability to promote efflux of cholesterol from macrophages in the artery wall, inhibit vascular inflammation, and enhance endothelial function. Therefore, HDL-C and apoA1 have been investigated as therapeutic targets for coronary heart disease. However, recent clinical trials with drugs that raise HDL-C, such as niacin and inhibitors of cholesteryl ester transfer protein, have been disappointing. Here, we review the current state of the science regarding HDL as a therapeutic target.