Antibodies are one of our most useful biological tools. Indeed, improvements in antibody-based technologies have ushered in a new era of antibody-based therapeutics, research and diagnostic tools. Although improved technologies have led to the development of therapeutic antibodies for treatment of malignancies and inflammatory conditions, the use of advanced antibody technology in the therapy of viral infections is in its infancy. Non-human primate studies have demonstrated that antibodies against the HIV envelope can both prevent viral infection and control viremia. Despite the obvious potential of antibody therapies against HIV, there remain limitations in production and purification capacity that require further research. Recent advances in recombinant antibody technology have led to the development of a range of novel antibody fragments, such as single-domain nanobodies and bispecific antibodies, that are capable of targeting cancer cells to cytotoxic T cells. Novel antibody production techniques have also been designed, allowing antibodies to be obtained from non-mammalian cells, bovine colostrum and the periplasm and cytoplasm of bacteria. These advances may allow large-scale production of HIV antibodies that are capable of protecting against HIV infection or serving as therapeutics that reduce the need for life-long antiretroviral treatment. This review summarises recent advances in antibody-based technologies and discusses the possibilities and challenges of using these advances to design prophylactics and therapeutics against HIV.Immunology and Cell Biology advance online publication, 6 May 2014; doi:10.1038/icb.2014.35.