The reverse transcriptase of HIV is a key target for the antiviral treatment of AIDS. Numerous potent inhibitors of RT have been described including all of the drugs that have been currently licensed for the treatment of AIDS, but their efficacy has been limited by the emergence of drug-resistant HIV variants. Extensive biochemical, genetic, and clinical data about HIV RT enzymatic mechanisms, inhibition, and drug resistance have been reported. This information, taken together with structural data from crystallographic studies of HIV-1 RT, has set the stage for structure-based design of improved inhibitors of this essential viral enzyme. Comparisons of the different crystal structures of HIV-1 RT shows that the enzyme has great conformational flexibility, providing additional possibilities for drug targeting. Recent clinical and virological data suggest that HIV-1 RT enzymes that carry drug-resistance mutations can be substantially impaired and that combinations of RT inhibitors can produce significant clinical benefit in the treatment of AIDS. An immediate goal is to use the available information to design specific inhibitors or combination therapies that will select for relatively less fit HIV variants.