Mucosal transmission is the predominant mode of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection worldwide, and the mucosal innate interferon response represents an important component of the earliest host response to the infection. Our goal here was to assess the changes in mRNA expression of innate mucosal genes after oral simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) inoculation of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) that were followed throughout their course of disease progression. The SIV plasma viral load was highest in the macaque that progressed rapidly to simian AIDS (99 days) and lowest in the macaque that progressed more slowly (>700 days). The mRNA levels of six innate/effector genes in the oral mucosa indicated that slower disease progression was associated with increased expression of these genes. This distinction was most evident when comparing the slowest-progressing macaque to the intermediate and rapid progressors. Expression levels of alpha and gamma interferons, the antiviral interferon-stimulated gene product 2'-5' oligoadenylate synthetase (OAS), and the chemokines CXCL9 and CXCL10 in the slow progressor were elevated at each of the three oral mucosal biopsy time points examined (day 2 to 4, 14 to 21, and day 70 postinfection). In contrast, the more rapidly progressing macaques demonstrated elevated levels of these cytokine/chemokine mRNA at lymph nodes, coincident with decreased levels at the mucosal sites, and a decreased ability to elicit an effective anti-SIV antibody response. These data provide evidence that a robust mucosal innate/effector immune response is beneficial following lentiviral exposure; however, it is likely that the anatomical location and timing of the response need to be coordinated to permit an effective immune response able to delay progression to simian AIDS.