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Syphilis Cases in New York City Rise by 55 Percent, Health Officials Say

January 31, 2003

On Thursday, New York City health officials reported a 55 percent rise in syphilis cases in 2002 from 2001, with the increase primarily among gay and bisexual men. While the numbers are still small (436 cases in 2002, 282 in 2001), the steady increase is a sign that some segments of the population are ignoring warnings about safe sex. Dr. Thomas Frieden, the city's health commissioner, noted that syphilis cases are also increasing in other cities, notably Los Angeles, Miami and Houston. "This is a very troubling multicity outbreak that is almost exclusive among men who have sex with men," he said.

The steepest increase in reported syphilis cases was among white men in Manhattan, though African-American and Hispanic men throughout the city also have high rates of infection. Two hundred-thirty men diagnosed with syphilis in 2002 also had HIV. About 70 percent of the men said they knowingly risked their partners' health, according to health department statistics.

New York had a serious syphilis outbreak in 1990, with 4,265 cases reported. It spread as the use of crack cocaine increased and exchanging sex for drugs became common, officials said. By 1998, the number of cases decreased to 82, most involving MSM.

Gay organizations find the statistics troubling. "It shows the magnitude of the challenge of promoting safe sex and the message of prevention," said Ronald Johnson, associate executive director of the Gay Men's Health Crisis. Two years ago, the group began testing for syphilis as well as HIV.

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"We know that the HIV safer-sex message worked in the late '80s and '90s," Johnson said, "but it has to be retailored to a new generation of gay and bisexual men who are just coming into sexual maturity. They are the ones who must get the message."

Back to other CDC news for January 31, 2003

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Adapted from:
New York Times
01.31.03; Nichole M. Christian



  
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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.
 

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