Perivascular cells are a heterogeneous population found in the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Several terms are used for these cells, including perivascular cells, perivascular macrophages, perivascular microglia, fluorescent granular perithelial cells (FGP), or Mato cells. Different terminology used may reflect subpopulations of perivascular cells within different anatomic regions and experimental paradigms, neuropathological conditions, and species studied. Different terminology also points to the lack of clear consensus of what cells are perivascular cells in different disease states and models, especially with breakdown of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Despite this, there is consensus that perivascular cells, although a minor component of the CNS, are important immunoregulatory cells. Perivascular cells are bone marrow derived, continuously turn over in the CNS, and are found adjacent to CNS vessels. Thus, they are potential sensors of CNS and peripheral immune system perturbations; are activated in models of CNS inflammation, autoimmune disease, neuronal injury and death; and are implicated as phagocytic and pinocytotic cells in models of stroke and hypertension. Recent evidence from our laboratory implicate perivascular cells as primary targets of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection in the CNS of humans and macaques. This article reviews current knowledge of perivascular cells, including anatomic location and nomenclature and putative immunoregulatory roles, and discusses new data on the infection of these cells by SIV, their accumulation after SIV infection, and a possible role of the immune system in SIV encephalitis. GLIA 36:156–164, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.