As the hiv/aids epidemic and sexually transmitted diseases (stds) continue to advance worldwide, we are learning ever more about how they affect individuals, households, families, communities, organizations and nations. The individual loss has been enormous, particularly in those countries and regions affected early on. aids is increasingly recognized in developing countries as a serious concern for socioeconomic development as a whole. Its impact is seen in family and community structures and relationships and in sectors as varied as education, employment, health care, social welfare, agriculture and the judiciary. Economic consequences are already apparent. In highly affected countries, the business sector is experiencing increased absenteeism as employees fall ill, care for the sick or attend funerals. Loss of experienced and skilled workers in the formal and informal sectors may lead to lower productivity, savings and investments. In subsistence and small-scale agriculture, loss of labour may result in changes in farming patterns and food shortages.