Retroviruses have been implicated as causative agents for a range of diseases including neoplasia, autoimmunity and immunosuppression. No two retroviruses carry the same complement of genes and for this reason it is not surprising that they induce a variety of different disease states. One common element in retroviral evolution has been the need to avoid immune recognition in order to persist within the host. A comparative approach, looking at various persistent retroviruses, has been used to pin-point the types of genetic adaptations adopted by retroviruses to remain hidden, often within the T cell compartment. Most of these retroviruses are T-cell-tropic and the diseases which they induce usually reflect the effect of the retrovirus on normal lymphocyte function.