Human T cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is an oncogenic human retrovirus that has infected 10–15 million people worldwide. After a long latency, 3–5% of infected individuals will develop either a severe malignancy of CD4+ T cells, known as Adult T-cell Leukemia (ATL) or a chronic and progressive inflammatory disease of the nervous system designated Tropical Spastic Paraparesis/HTLV-1-Associated Myelopathy (HAM/TSP). The precise mechanism behind HTLV-1 pathogenesis still remains elusive. Two viral regulatory proteins, Tax-1 and HTLV-1 bZIP factor (HBZ) are thought to play a critical role in HTLV-1-associated diseases. Tax-1 is mainly involved in the onset of neoplastic transformation and in elicitation of the host’s inflammatory responses; its expression may be lost during cell clonal proliferation and oncogenesis. Conversely, HBZ remains constantly expressed in all patients with ATL, playing a role in the proliferation and maintenance of leukemic cells. Recent studies have shown that the subcellular distribution of HBZ protein differs in the two pathologies: it is nuclear with a speckled-like pattern in leukemic cells and is cytoplasmic in cells from HAM/TSP patients. Thus, HBZ expression and distribution could be critical in the progression of HTLV-1 infection versus the leukemic state or the inflammatory disease. Here, we reviewed recent findings on the role of HBZ in HTLV-1 related diseases, highlighting the new perspectives open by the possibility of studying the physiologic expression of endogenous protein in primary infected cells.