Dendritic cells (DCs) are white blood cells that coordinate innate and adaptive immunity. They are distributed within epithelia and mucosal-associated lymphoid tissues, positioned to entrap incoming pathogens or vaccines. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the non-human primate equivalent (SIV) exploit DCs to amplify infection, underscoring the need to harness strategies that promote presentation of virus by DCs to stimulate potent anti-viral immunity instead of virus transmission. Two main subsets of DCs need to be considered: myeloid (MDC) and plasmacytoid (PDC) subsets. Using the SIV-macaque system to advance oral vaccine research, we examined macaque PDC and MDC biology, identifying ways to activate DCs and boost antiviral immunity. Immunostimulatory oligodeoxyribonucleotides (ISS-ODNs) stimulated PDC/MDC mixtures to up-regulate co-stimulatory molecule expression and to secrete both IFN-α and IL-12. Additionally, ISS-ODNs augmented SIV-specific IFN-γ responses induced by virus-bearing DCs. ISS-ODN-driven DC activation is being pursued to improve oral/nasopharyngeal mucosal vaccines and therapies against HIV.