CD8 CTLs are a major effector for protection against cancer as well as many infectious diseases, including HIV / AIDS [2, 8, 11, 31, 35]. CD8 CTL recognize antigenic peptides in the context of class I MHC. CTL functional avidity has been shown to be an important determinant of in vivo efficacy. CTL that can recognize peptide / MHC only at high antigen density are termed low avidity CTL, while those that can recognize their cognate antigen at low densities are termed high avidity CTL [4, 14, 15]. Recent studies have demonstrated that high avidity CTLs are essential for the effective clearance of viral infections [4, 22] and for the elimination of tumor cells [39, 60, 62]. At this time, approaches that can target high avidity cells for expansion in vivo are not well defined; however, new insights are beginning to emerge. A recent study has shown that prime-boost immunization may be an effective method to generate high avidity CTLs that recognize HIV antigens . In addition, we recently found that high levels of costimulation (signal 2) can skew the CTL response toward higher avidity cells . Thus, vectors expressing a triad of costimulatory molecules (TRICOM) or dendritic cells expressing higher levels of costimulatory molecules, can be used to induce high avidity CTL. Finally a critical role for CD4+ T cell help in the generation of high avidity cells has recently been identified (Palmer, manuscript submitted). While high avidity CTLs are superior for viral and tumor clearance, they also have a greater sensitivity to antigen induced cell death. In some types of chronic infections, such as HIV and HCV, as well as in cancer, the host may lose, by clonal exhaustion or other apoptotic mechanisms, the effector cells that are most critical to viral or tumor clearance [21, 38]. In this review, we examine the current knowledge concerning CTL avidity. We discuss the factors that may distinguish high avidity CTLs from low avidity CTLs and describe some of the mechanisms these cells use to clear viral infections. In addition, we study possible immunization strategies that may be used to elicit higher avidity CTLs and describe what is known about the factors that render these cells more susceptible to apoptosis than low avidity CTLs. Finally, we will incorporate these various elements into a general discussion of possible approaches for induction and maintenance of an effective immune response that can result in clearance of tumors or chronic viral infections and the relevance to vaccine development.