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Suppression of HIV replication by highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) often restores protective pathogen-specific immune responses, but in some patients the restored immune response is immunopathological and causes disease [immune restoration disease (IRD)]. Infections by mycobacteria, cryptococci, herpesviruses, hepatitis B and C virus, and JC virus are the most common pathogens associated with infectious IRD. Sarcoid IRD and autoimmune IRD occur less commonly. Infectious IRD presenting during the first 3 months of therapy appears to reflect an immune response against an active (often quiescent) infection by opportunistic pathogens whereas late IRD may result from an immune response against the antigens of non-viable pathogens. Data on the immunopathogenesis of IRD is limited but it suggests that immunopathogenic mechanisms are determined by the pathogen. For example, mycobacterial IRD is associated with delayed-type hypersensitivity responses to mycobacterial antigens whereas there is evidence of a CD8 T-cell response in herpesvirus IRD. Furthermore, the association of different cytokine gene polymorphisms with mycobacterial or herpesvirus IRD provides evidence of different pathogenic mechanisms as well as indicating a genetic susceptibility to IRD. Differentiation of IRD from an opportunistic infection is important because IRD indicates a successful, albeit undesirable, effect of HAART. It is also important to differentiate IRD from drug toxicity to avoid unnecessary cessation of HAART. The management of IRD often requires the use of anti-microbial and/or anti-inflammatory therapy. Investigation of strategies to prevent IRD is a priority, particularly in developing countries, and requires the development of risk assessment methods and diagnostic criteria.