HIV envelope glycoprotein transmembrane subunit gp41 plays a critical role in the fusion between viral and target cell membranes. Upon gp120 binding to CD4 and a coreceptor (CCR5 or CXCR4), gp41 changes its conformation by forming N-helix trimer between N-heptad repeats (NHRs) and then six-helix bundle between the N-trimer and the Cheptad repeats (CHRs). Peptides derived from the NHR and CHR of gp41 extracellular region have demonstrated potent inhibitory activity on the HIV mediated cell fusion. One of these peptides, T-20, became the first success of a new class of anti-HIV agents, named HIV entry inhibitors. However, a relatively long peptide such as T-20 suffers from several limitations including lack of oral bioavailability and high cost of production. Great efforts have been made to develop alternative peptides and proteins with improved anti-HIV-1 activity, increased bioavailability and reduced cost of production. The most promising approach is the development of small molecule HIV entry inhibitors targeting gp41. Any molecule that blocks the process of NHR homotrimerization and the six-helix bundle formation by targeting the gp41 NHR, NHR trimer and CHR may inhibit HIV-mediated membrane fusion. The progress in development of those anti-HIV agents targeting gp41, from polypeptides to small-molecule compounds, is reviewed.