MANILA -- The Department of Health (DOH) has enlisted the commitment of mayors to help avert the spread of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the country.

Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial and Metro Manila mayors and representatives recently signed a city HIV resolution on the latter’s commitment to fast-track the implementation of coordinated quality and high-impact HIV interventions in the National Capital Region (NCR).

In a news release issued Wednesday, Ubial said the commitment aims to increase public knowledge on HIV transmission and prevention, especially among those 15 to 24 years old; promote HIV testing among populations who are at high risk of contracting the deadly disease; treat all those who are diagnosed with HIV; and eliminate mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

She called for an engaging role of the City AIDS Council that would roll out new prevention and testing approaches, establish facilities that offer integrated services for HIV care, and strengthen social protection for people living with HIV and key populations.

“The fight against HIV and AIDS needs a concerted and coordinated response from all stakeholders, and all local and national chief executives. We must start now to reverse the trend in HIV and AIDS epidemic and save more lives," Ubial said.

The health chief told the mayors that as of last June, about 65 percent of people living with HIV in the Philippines could be found in the NCR and nearby provinces.

She added that the DOH Epidemiology Bureau has projected the number of people with HIV to increase from an estimated 67,000 by the end of the year to 201,000 in 2025 if no drastic intervention is done immediately.

"The picture of the present epidemic shows that majority of new infections are among males who have sex with males (MSM) and transgender women who have sex with males (TGW) aged 15 to 24 years old," she said.

DOH data also reveal that half of MSMs and TGWs start to have sex at 16 years old, with some starting as early as 12, Ubial said, adding that intervention measures, however, can only be made available and accessible when they turn 18, and their first HIV test happens later at about 22 years old.

This, she said, is compounded by the findings on the initiation of treatment among people diagnosed with HIV, which occurs much later at 28 years old.

Also present during the meeting with the mayors was Eamonn Murphy, director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific.

Murphy praised the commitment made by the mayors and pledged to help mobilize technical support, noting that they are discussing these efforts with development partners. (DOH, UNAIDS PR)