Increase in Syphilis Cases Among MSM in California Does Not Correspond to Rise in Number of HIV Cases, Study Says
July 9, 2004
An increase in the number of syphilis cases among men who have sex with men in Los Angeles and San Francisco has not corresponded to a rise in the number of HIV cases, according to a study published in the July 9 issue of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Reuters reports (Reuters, 7/8). Health officials had thought that the syphilis outbreak indicated risky sexual behavior among MSM was increasing and that there would be a corresponding increase in the number of HIV cases, according to the AP/Los Angeles Times (AP/Los Angeles Times, 7/9). CDC officials analyzed data from HIV counseling and testing centers in Los Angeles and San Francisco and a municipal sexually transmitted disease clinic. Researchers found that in San Francisco between 1998 and 2000 the number of syphilis cases among MSM increased from four to 260 and the incidence of syphilis increased from eight cases per 100,000 MSM to 512 cases per 100,000 MSM. Researchers also found that in Los Angeles County between 2000 and 2002, the number of syphilis cases among MSM increased from 67 to 299 (J.W. Dilley et al., MMWR, 7/9). However, 1.9% of MSM in San Francisco were HIV-positive in 1998, compared with 2.4% in 2002, the AP/Times reports. In addition, 4.8% of MSM in Los Angeles were HIV-positive in 1998, compared with 4.1% of MSM in the city in 2002 (AP/Los Angeles Times, 7/9). The researchers conclude that the "outbreaks of syphilis had not had a substantial impact on HIV incidence among MSM in these two cities," adding that a "continued increase in syphilis cases in MSM underscores the need for integrated HIV and STD prevention strategies to control syphilis outbreaks and prevent potential increases in HIV infections and for further systematic studies of HIV incidence among MSM infected with syphilis" (MMWR, 7/9). CDC officials said that about 60% of newly reported syphilis cases among MSM in San Francisco and Los Angeles were among men that were already HIV-positive, according to the AP/Times. Dr. Scott Holmberg, an epidemiologist with the CDC's National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention Divisions of HIV and AIDS Prevention, says, "We will continue to monitor the situation closely" (AP/Los Angeles Times, 7/9).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.