Following infection, a virus must battle against the host's immune response. Viruses have developed many ways to escape immune surveillance and downregulate the host's immune response. Some viruses cause a generalized immunosuppression, thereby inhibiting or depressing the immune response towards themselves as well as towards unrelated pathogens. This review will focus on the mechanisms involved in the three main human viral infections causing immunosuppression: measles, human immunodeficiency virus and cytomegalovirus. We will also discuss what has been learned from the extensively studied mouse models of viral-induced immunosuppression: lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus and Rauscher leukemia virus. All of these viruses that induce generalized immunosuppression appear to do so by very similar mechanisms. They hinder antigen presentation to T cells and/or hematopoiesis. We will highlight the similarities in the viral targets as well as present evidence for alternate mechanisms.