U. S. News
A New Warning About Syphilis
July 9, 2007
Without treatment, Almost one in 50 HIV-positive gay and bisexual men who contract syphilis is at risk of developing symptoms of early neurosyphilis, new research suggests. That "is a minimum estimate of what the problem is really like out there," said Dr. Peter Kerndt, director of Los Angeles County's STD program and the study's co-author. And among that co-infected population, about one in 200 still reported complications six months after treatment, the study found.
Confirmed neurosyphilis typically requires a hospital stay and 10-14 days of intravenous penicillin.
"There's this perception out there that if you already have HIV, why worry about other STDs?" said Kerndt. "Well, this is a very serious reason to worry about other STDs."
"People need to be aware of the symptoms: Hearing loss, problems seeing, problems walking," said Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner, head of STD Prevention and Control Services for San Francisco. "If they have those symptoms, they need to see their physician."
Six in 10 gay and bisexual men with syphilis in Los Angeles County reported they were also HIV-positive. The county's syphilis caseload has increased 365 percent since 2001, officials said.
Experts attributed the rise in syphilis among HIV-positive men to highly effective HIV treatments, which have emboldened some men to continue high-risk sex without condoms.
The HIV-syphilis coinfections led authors of a CDC report to estimate the risk of complications, said Dr. Tom Peterman, a CDC epidemiologist and report co-author. The report reviewed data from Los Angeles, San Diego, New York, and Chicago.
"The key here is for men to try to avoid getting syphilis," Peterman said. "Cut down on the number of partners, particularly anonymous partners, and use condoms."
The full account, "Symptomatic Early Neurosyphilis Among HIV-Positive Men Who Have Sex with Men - Four Cities, United States, January 2002-June 2004," was published in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (2007;56(25):625-628).
Los Angeles Times
7.6.2007; Mary Engel
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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.