The US Centers for Disease Control released new data on Thursday showing that the sexually transmitted disease syphilis has returned from the brink and is spreading mostly among gay and bisexual men in America.
In 2000 the rate of infection in the US was just 2.1 cases per 100,000 people and health authorities believed they had the spread of the bacteria that causes the disease nearly beat.
But new data shows the rate of infection soaring, more than doubling in 13 years.
Data from last year shows the infection rate at 5.3 cases per 100,000 people and there were 16,663 cases diagnosed last year.
Men accounted for 91% of those cases, with most of them being men who have sex with men.
The increase of infections was largely among white and Hispanic Americans, while infections are slightly down among African Americans.
However African Americans were already an overly at risk group and they are still more than five times more likely to have syphilis than white Americans.
The researchers blamed the upsurge in syphilis cases among men who have sex with men (MSM) on, ‘barriers to contacting and treating sex partners exist, including delays in reporting cases to the health department, anonymous partners, physicians who rely on patients to notify their partners, and the observed tendency of MSM to notify a smaller proportion of their sex partners than do heterosexuals.’
They said their research made a strong case for syphilis prevention measures focusing on men who have sex in all communities throughout the US as infection with syphilis made it easier for people to become infected with HIV.
‘The increase in syphilis among MSM is a major public health concern, particularly because syphilis and the behaviors associated with acquiring it increase the likelihood of acquiring and transmitting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV),’ they wrote in the CDC’s report.
‘The resurgence of syphilis, coupled with its strong link with HIV, underscores the need for programs and providers to urge safer sexual practices; promote syphilis awareness and screening as well as appropriate screening for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV infection; and notify and treat sex partners.’
‘Public health officials should seek to improve the quality of data regarding the sex of sex partners, share local MSM, sexually transmitted disease, and HIV data consistent with local laws and regulations with medical providers to increase their awareness of disease burden in their communities, and ensure that providers can recognize syphilis symptoms.’