The Division of AIDS (DAIDS), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), organized a Workshop on HIV/SIV Pathogenesis and Mucosal Transmission on March 14-17, 1994, attended by over 300 participants. The purpose of the workshop was to foster research in the areas of HIV pathogenesis, mucosal transmission, and host factors modulating HIV infection and disease. This article summarizes workshop presentations that focused on mechanisms of HIV or SIV mucosal transmission. The following are highlights from the workshop. The epidemiological data indicating a low probability of infection from a single sexual exposure are consistent with observations that infectious cell-free or cell-associated HIV could be isolated from only 10-57% of semen samples, and that high levels of SIV are required for infection by a mucosal route. Several lines of circumstantial evidence suggest that an important property of a transmitted HIV or SIV is the ability to infect macrophages. A potential mechanism for cell-associated mucosal transmission is provided by the observations that CD4-negative epithelial cells in culture are efficiently infected by direct contact with HIV-infected T cells, and that HIV-infected epithelial cells are observed in vivo. Cell-free HIV virions contain partial reverse transcripts of viral RNA into DNA, and conditions that promote DNA reverse transcripts, such as incubation in seminal fluid, increase viral infectivity. Finally, evidence is accumulating that transient or abortive infection with short-term recovery of infectious virus in blood can occur in the absence of seroconversion.