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UNAIDS and WHO produce biannual country-specific estimates of HIV/AIDS and its impact. These estimates are based on methods and assumptions that reflect the best understanding of HIV epidemiology and demography at the time. Where significant advances are made in epidemiological and demographic research, the methods and assumptions must evolve to match these advances. UNAIDS established an Epidemiology Reference Group in 1999 to advise them and other organisations on HIV epidemiology and methods for making estimates and projections of HIV/AIDS. During the meeting of the reference group in 2001, four priority areas were identified where methods and assumptions should be reviewed and perhaps modified: a) models of the HIV epidemic, b) survival of adults with HIV-1 in low and middle income countries, c) survival of children with HIV-1 in low and middle income countries, and d) methods to estimate numbers of AIDS orphans. Research and literature reviews were carried out by Reference Group members and invited specialists, prior to meetings held during 2001-2. Recommendations reflecting the consensus of the meeting participants on the four priority areas were determined at each meeting. These recommendations were followed in UNAIDS and WHO development of country-specific estimates of HIV/AIDS and its impact for end of 2001.