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National News

Syphilis Rate Continues to Rise in Minnesota

October 3, 2002

Syphilis cases among gay and bisexual men in Minnesota have increased tenfold this year compared with last, health officials said recently. The news heightens fears that unsafe sexual practices will also lead to higher rates of HIV. Fifty new syphilis cases were reported to the Minnesota Department of Health in the first eight months of this year, compared with 32 in the same period last year, said Julia Ashley, an assistant manager at the department.

Thirty-four new cases were among gay and bisexual men, primarily in the Twin Cities, compared with three a year ago, Ashley said. Of the new cases, 19 occurred in people infected with HIV, compared with two in the same period last year.

Health officials said the trends are alarming for two reasons. They show that people infected with HIV engaged in unprotected sex, and that the risk of HIV infection is two to five times higher among those with syphilis. Earlier this year, state officials reported an unexpected increase in new HIV infections. After declining for five years, the number of HIV infections in white men rose from 93 to 130 in 2001. The patients were almost exclusively gay and bisexual men.

The infection trend in the Twin Cities mirrors trends in other metropolitan areas, including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The increase shows that some gay and bisexual men are ignoring safe sex practices, experts said. The CDC last week reported data from several cities indicating that male syphilis patients are engaging in high-risk behavior, including sex with multiple partners and substance abuse. Public health officials must develop new ways to reach people in the gay community and develop effective prevention approaches, the CDC said.

Back to other CDC news for October 3, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
10.01.02; Josephine Marcotty

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Syphilis -- a Dreadful Disease on the Move
Syphilis Fact Sheet
Basic Questions and Answers About Syphilis and Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM)
More Statistics on Syphilis in Midwestern U.S. States