At the end of 2000, UNAIDS estimated that of the 36.1 million people worldwide who were living with HIV/AIDS, 95% resided in the developing world. Among these, 18.8% (6.84 million) are in the ANE Region. The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to spread in Asia, although in disparate ways-more rapidly in Cambodia, Thailand and India, for example, and more slowly in the Philippines and Indonesia. Egypt and Morocco both report low HIV prevalence rates: adult rates of 0.02% and 0.03% respectively, compared with 4.04% in Cambodia and 2.15% in Thailand. At 0.70%, India's infection rate is worrisome, although lower than the other two Asian countries, because it translates to 3.7 million cases-more than half of all cases in Asia.
With a mixed picture come major challenges: slowing the epidemic in the higher prevalence areas, fighting complacency in those areas where it is lower, maintaining high rates of condom use in places where condom use has been the norm and examining some of the conditions that fuel HIV infection-the most prevalent example being high-risk sexual and reproductive health behavior among those groups most vulnerable to HIV infection. These groups include commercial sex workers (freelance and brothel-based), transport workers (rickshaw pullers, truckers and dock workers), men who have sex with men, male migrants, intravenous drug users, and others who are exposed to the risk of repeated sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Young men under the age of 25 currently account for a full quarter of the world's HIV/AIDS-infected population. Bolstering existing Mission HIV/AIDS/STI programs with improved information and interventions, the ANE Region HIV/AIDS program is supporting CATALYST in undertaking formative research of at-risk young men and older men as well in Bangladesh and Nepal.
These studies will generate evidence-based recommendations for addressing the problem of reaching young men with HIV/AIDS/STI prevention messages and interventions, as well as for developing gender sensitivity and healthy sexual and reproductive health practices.