In some settings increasing high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels has been associated with a reduction in experimental atherosclerosis. This has been most clearly seen in apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I) transgenic mice or in animals infused with HDL or its apolipoproteins. A major mechanism by which these treatments are thought to delay progression or cause regression of atherosclerosis is by promoting efflux of cholesterol from macrophage foam cells. In addition, HDL has been described as having anti-inflammatory and other beneficial effects. Some recent research has linked anti-inflammatory effects to cholesterol efflux pathways but likely multiple mechanisms are involved. Macrophage cholesterol efflux may have a role in facilitating emigration of macrophages from lesions during regression. While macrophages can mediate cholesterol efflux by several pathways, studies in knockout mice or cells point to the importance of active efflux mediated by ATP binding cassette transporter (ABC) A1 and G1. In addition to traditional roles in macrophages, these transporters have been implicated in the control of hematopoietic stem cell proliferation, monocytosis and neutrophilia, as well as activation of monocytes and neutrophils. Thus, HDL and cholesterol efflux pathways may have important anti-atherogenic effects at all stages of the myeloid cell/monocyte/dendritic cell/macrophage lifecycle. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Advances in High Density Lipoprotein Formation and Metabolism: A Tribute to John F. Oram (1945-2010).