Since the discovery of simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV) causing AIDS-like diseases in Asian macaques, non-human primates (NHP) have played an important role in AIDS vaccine research. A multitude of vaccines and immunization approaches have been evaluated, including live attenuated viruses, DNA vaccines, viral and bacterial vectors, subunit proteins, and combinations thereof. Depending on the particular vaccine and model used, varying degrees of protection have been achieved, including prevention of infection, reduction of viral load, and amelioration of disease. In a few instances, potential safety concerns and vaccine-enhanced pathogenicity have also been noted. In the past decade, sophisticated methodologies have been developed to define the mechanisms of protective immunity. However, a clear road map for HIV vaccine development has yet to emerge. This is in part because of the intrinsic nature of the surrogate model and in part because of the improbability of any single model to fully capture the complex interactions of natural HIV infection in humans. The lack of standardization, the limited models available, and the incomplete understanding of the immunobiology of NHP contribute to the difficulty to extrapolate findings from such models to HIV vaccine development. Until efficacy data become available from studies of parallel vaccine concepts in humans and macaques, the predictive value of any NHP model remains unknown. Towards this end, greater appreciation of the utility and limitations of the NHP model and further developments to better mimic HIV infection in humans will likely help inform future AIDS vaccine efforts.