MANILA, July 27 (Xinhua) -- The League of Cities of the Philippines and UNAIDS signed on Friday a cooperation agreement that commits the network of member cities to advocating and supporting local leaders to fast track the response to HIV to reverse the current trend of the epidemic in the country.
Both sides vowed to strengthen the engagement of civil society, including people living with HIV and key populations, to scale up and expand local responses.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said in its newly released report that the annual new infections have more than doubled in the Philippines in the past seven years to an estimated 12,000 in 2017.
With a 174 percent increase since 2010, the report says the Philippines has become the country with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific.
Cities and urban areas are particularly affected by HIV, according to health authorities.
"The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country is an issue that needs urgent action among local governments, especially since key populations at risk of infections reside mostly in the cities. I encourage my peers at the League of Cities to also take action and contribute in controlling and, ultimately, ending HIV/AIDS in the country," said Taguig Mayor Ma. Laarni Cayetano, national chair of the League of Cities of the Philippines.
While the Philippines has for many years had HIV services focusing on female sex workers, the report says there is now a need to scale-up services tailored to other key populations and where they are located.
UNAIDS data show that more than 90 percent of new HIV infections are occurring among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people (TG). Condom use among men who have sex with men and transgender people is low at 50 percent and 37 percent respectively and HIV testing is also low. Only 16 percent of MSM knew their HIV status in 2015.
In 2016, the Philippines adopted the UN Sustainable Development Goals and committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
To achieve this commitment, UNAIDS encourages cities to accelerate their HIV response by reaching critical HIV prevention, treatment and zero discrimination targets by 2020.
Local governments in the Philippines are already working to provide resources and implementing innovative HIV prevention services.