OBJECTIVE To systematically review information on HIV epidemiology and on sexual behaviour in Nepal with a view to identifying gaps in current knowledge.
METHODS Systematic review covering electronic databases, web-based information, personal contact with experts and hand searching of key journals.
RESULTS HIV-1 seroprevalence has been rising rapidly in association with high-risk behaviours, with current levels of 40% amongst the nation's injecting drug users and approaching 20% amongst Kathmandu's female commercial sex workers (FCSWs). HIV seroprevalence remains low in the general population (0.29% of 15–49 year olds). There are significant methodological limitations in many of the seroprevalence studies identified, and these estimates need to be treated with caution. There are extensive migration patterns both within the country and internationally which provide the potential for considerable sexual networking. However, studies of sexual behaviour have focused on FCSWs and the extent of sexual networks within the general population is largely unknown.
CONCLUSIONS Whilst some of the ingredients are present for an explosive HIV epidemic in Nepal, crucial knowledge on sexual behaviour in the general population is missing. Research on sexual networking is urgently required to guide HIV control in Nepal. There is also a need for further good-quality epidemiological studies of HIV seroprevalence.