As an early response to infection, cells induce a profile of the early inflammatory proteins including antiviral cytokines and chemokines. Two families of transcriptional factors play a major role in the transcriptional activation of the early inflammatory genes: The well-characterized family of NFkB factors and the family of interferon regulatory factors (IRF). The IRFs play a critical role in the induction of type I interferon (IFN) and chemokine genes, as well as genes mediating antiviral, antibacterial, and inflammatory responses. Type I IFNs represent critical components of innate antiviral immunity. These proteins not only exert direct antiviral effects, but also induce maturation of dendritic cells (DC), and enhance functions of NK, T and B cells, and macrophages. This review will summarize the current knowledge of the mechanisms leading to the innate antiviral response with a focus on its role in the regulation of HIV-1 infection and pathogenicity. We would like this review to be both historical and a future perspective.