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National News

Indianapolis: Battle Against Syphilis Faces New Challenge

August 2, 2002

The syphilis rate in Indianapolis is falling, reports Dr. Virginia Caine, Marion County Health Department Director. However, health workers have had to add a new abbreviation to their battle against the sexually transmitted disease -- MSM, men who have sex with men. MSM are responsible for a significant number of STD cases in the United States, according to the CDC. What's more, public health workers locally believe that MSM are a major factor in the transmission of syphilis to women.

There is no doubt of the importance of reaching the MSM population, the size of which is unknown, said Alan Witchie of the Damien Center. Caine said progress is being made in reducing the city's overall rate of syphilis. There were more than 400 cases diagnosed in 1999, she said. "By 2001, there were 129 total cases of syphilis. All the way to July 22 [2002], we've just had 23 cases." The department also said 65 percent of all syphilis cases from 1999 to 2001 were reported in four "hot zone" zip codes.

Caine said that, under a national directive from the CDC, public health workers are modifying some of their methods of outreach to target the group of men who are often in the shadows. Many of the stricter guidelines -- such as screening all men who visit clinics -- were already in place in Marion County. Caine said health workers also initiated a screening program at the Marion County Jail, in cooperation with 14 community health centers for outreach and treatment, and started 24-hour screening programs at Wishard and Methodist hospitals' emergency rooms. "We feel we have one of the best, strong coalitions in the country," Caine said.

Back to other CDC news for August 2, 2002

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Indianapolis Star
07.24.02; Celeste Williams

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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