Tetrahydro-imidazo[4,5,1-jk][1,4]-benzodiazepin-2(1H)-one and -thione (TIBO) derivatives were shown to specifically block human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) replication through a unique interaction with the HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (RT). Through further modification of the lead compounds and structure-activity relationship analysis several new TIBO derivatives that show high potency, selectivity, and specificity against HIV-1 have been obtained. A new TIBO derivative, R86183, inhibits the replication of HIV-1, but not HIV-2, in a variety of CD4+ T-cell lines and peripheral blood lymphocytes, at a concentration of 0.3 to 30 nM, which is at least 4 orders of magnitude lower than the 50% cytotoxic concentration. Whereas an HIV-1 strain containing the Leu-100-->Ile mutation in the RT gene is about 400-fold less susceptible, R86183 still inhibits the replication of an HIV-1 strain containing the Tyr-181-->Cys RT mutation by 50% at a concentration of 130 nM. R86183 inhibits the poly(C).oligo(dG)12-18-directed HIV-1 RT reaction by 50% at a concentration of 57 nM. The antiviral activity of 22 TIBO derivatives in cell culture correlated well with their activity against HIV-1 RT. No such correlation was found for their cytotoxicity. The combination of R86183 with either zidovudine or didanosine resulted in a synergistic inhibition of HIV-1 (strain IIIB) replication. Combination of R86183 with the protease inhibitor Ro31-8959 was found to be additive. Also described is a dilution protocol circumventing overestimation and underestimation of antiviral activity due to adherence to plastic surfaces.