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29 April 2007
Syphilis Infection Rate Continues To Rise
by George Atkinson

The last ten years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases of syphilis among gay and bisexual men, say scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the number of infections in the general population has fallen over the last decade, gay men have seen their rates rise significantly.

"The entire nation was caught unawares," wrote CDC's James Heffelfinger in The American Journal of Public Health. "You're concentrating on one population, but the next thing you know, you start seeing a large increase among another group."

While it is relatively easy to cure syphilis, it can cause serious problems if left untreated. Additionally, there is some evidence that syphilis infection can lower the body's barriers to HIV infection.

The actual figures make dramatic reading in their contrasting of heterosexual and gay infection rates. Between 1990 and 2000, syphilis rates generally fell by a whopping 90 percent, which public health officials think was due to fewer people trading sex for crack cocaine as the decade went by.

But then, infection rates rose by 19 percent between 2000 and 2003. During that period, the rate among women declined by 53 percent, while rates among men jumped by 62 percent. Because so few women were infected, the study's authors infer that a large number of those infected were gay or bisexual.

Illicit drug use and safe-sex fatigue are cited as two possible reasons for the surge. The researchers conclude that prevention efforts should be ramped-up to deal with the problem.

Related articles:
Back To The Future For Syphilis Research
STDs Preferable To Condom Use For Many Men
Syphilis Increases Transmission Of HIV

Source: Center for the Advancement of Health




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