MANILA, Philippines?Human immunodeficiency virus prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgenders in the Philippines and other major Asian cities is rising while the HIV epidemic is stabilizing in many other parts of the world.
In the Philippines, the prevalence is as high as 4 percent in some parts of the country, with the MSM population taking more than a 70 percent share of new reported infections, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the Philippines.
The UNDP said the situation may worsen if the affected countries fail to strengthen city-level responses that could lead to a reversal of national progress on HIV.
HIV infection, which is still incurable, is sexually transmitted and can be prevented by using condoms or abstaining from sex with infected persons.
The UNDP said that while progress has been made to expand specific programs and funding for these key affected populations, the proportion of urban MSM and transgender persons reached by these interventions remains low.
?We at the UN firmly believe that the key to achieving the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals) is through the localization of responses,? said Renaud Meyer, UNDP country director for the Philippines.
?For this, the role of local leaders and local stakeholders in the response to HIV is very crucial,? he stressed.
A recent UNDP review showed the coverage of HIV services reported by Asian countries at between nine percent and 20 percent of MSM, way below the targets for universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.
The UNDP said that progress in addressing the issue continued to be hampered by punitive laws and policies, selective enforcement practices, and the lack of coordination between local health and law enforcement officials.
?Restrictive legal environments and selective enforcement practices continue to be significant barriers to effective rights-based responses,? said Clifton Cortez, UNDP HIV practice leader for the Asia-Pacific region.