The first description of the human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) was made in 1980, followed closely by the discovery of HTLV-2, in 1982. Since then, the main characteristics of these viruses, commonly referred to as HTLV-1/2, have been thoroughly studied. Central and South America and the Caribbean are areas of high prevalence of HTLV-1 and HTVL-2 and have clusters of infected people. The major modes of transmission have been through sexual con- tact, blood, and mother to child via breast-feeding. HTLV-1 is associated with adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL), HTLV-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/ TSP), and HTLV-associated uveitis as well as infectious dermatitis of children. More clarifica- tion is needed in the possible role of HTLV in rheumatologic, psychiatric, and infectious dis- eases. Since cures for ATL and HAM/TSP are lacking and no vaccine is available to prevent HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 transmission, these illnesses impose enormous social and financial costs on infected individuals, their families, and health care systems. For this reason, public health in- terventions aimed at counseling and educating high-risk individuals and populations are of vital importance. In the Americas this is especially important in the areas of high prevalence.