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Texas: Syphilis Can Help Spread HIV; New Campaign Designed to Raise Public Awareness

April 28, 2010

Houston and Harris County health officials are launching a new educational campaign aimed at making area residents aware of the connection between syphilis and HIV/AIDS.


Harris County reported a decline in new syphilis cases in the last two years. Even so, 2009's 317 cases represent a 359 percent increase since 1999, the first year after the county stopped receiving a CDC syphilis prevention grant. Houston recorded the nation's second-highest number of syphilis cases in 2007 (443), dropping to eighth in 2009.

"Harris County hasn't seen so much syphilis in 60 years," said Dr. Robert Andrade, an infectious-disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine and Thomas Street Health Center.

On Friday, public health experts conducted a symposium for health care providers in Acres Homes -- a center for syphilis activity in the county. Forty percent of Houston's syphilis cases are co-infected with HIV, with African Americans accounting for a majority of these patients. Syphilis can increase HIV transmission fivefold, said Michael Ross, a professor of public health at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Ross said a big factor in the city's syphilis epidemic of the last decade is gay men using the Internet to find sex partners. "HIV-positive men will hook up with other HIV-positive men and HIV-negative men will hook up with other HIV-negative men, both groups thinking that they're safe. But they don't realize they're often spreading syphilis or other STDs," said Ross, a symposium speaker.

Back to other news for April 2010

Adapted from:
Houston Chronicle
04.23.2010; Todd Ackerman

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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 News and Research on Syphilis in Southwestern U.S. States