It has been thirty years since human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was first identified as the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) , a landmark discovery that has led to tremendous progress in understanding and combating infection by this life-threatening retrovirus. The most notable achievement during this time has been the development of antiretroviral therapies that substantially improve the quality and length of life in infected individuals. Nevertheless, to date neither a complete cure nor a protective vaccine have been found, and new infections continue to occur at a rate of 6850 people per day. In this cross-journal series, Retrovirology, BMC Medicine and BMC Biology take stock of where we are now, with a collection of articles that discuss different aspects of HIV infection, the progress made towards eradicating the virus, and the challenges of fundamental science and clinical management that remain. Selected research articles will be included in addition to invited reviews and comment.