February 2, 2005
Health officials announced today that two New Yorkers have been diagnosed with a rare form of Chlamydia known as lymphogranuloma venereum, or LGV. In the past few decades LGV has been uncommon in industrialized nations, although several cases have recently been found in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. To date, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) -- which is coordinating a national investigation -- has confirmed six recent cases in the United States, including the two announced today, and cases in San Francisco (3) and Atlanta (1). CDC is also investigating other potential cases. The illness appears to have primarily affected gay and bi-sexual men.
Among cases identified thus far, most have also had HIV/AIDS infection. Most people infected report having multiple sex partners and engaging in unprotected anal intercourse and other high-risk practices. Symptoms of LGV include painful, bloody rectal infection that may be confused with inflammatory bowel disease. Genital ulcers can occur, as can painful, draining lymph nodes in the groin area. If identified early, LGV can be treated with antibiotics. Untreated LGV can cause permanent damage to the bowels and disfigurement of the genitals (elephantiasis). LGV can also fuel the spread of HIV/AIDS.
To urge those most at risk of infection to practice safer sex and to describe the City's response, Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. was joined by Jay Laudato, Executive Director of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center (CLCHC), Ana Oliveira, Executive Director of Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), Tokes M. Osubu, Executive Director of Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD) and Dennis DeLeon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS (LCOA) at a press conference in lower Manhattan earlier today.
Commissioner Frieden said, "LGV is a serious condition and its emergence in New York City reflects continuing high levels of unsafe sexual activity among men who have sex with men. Medical providers who care for gay and bi-sexual men should be alert for symptoms of LGV. It is also critical for gay and bi-sexual men to minimize risky sexual behaviors and practice safer sex -- including limiting the number of sex partners and using condoms every time you have sex -- to help prevent the spread of this illness and HIV/AIDS. Unprotected anal intercourse, in particular, is extremely risky in terms of spread of LGV as well as HIV."
"Prevention is more than just about protection against HIV. It's about protecting oneself against all kinds of sexually transmitted infections, including LGV," said Ana Oliveira, Executive Director of Gay Men's Health Crisis. "These two local cases of LGV should enlighten men who have sex with men that practicing safer sex is the best way to stay alive and stay healthy."
Callen-Lorde Executive Director Jay Laudato said, "Callen-Lorde screens and treats more than 4,000 cases of Sexually Transmitted Infection annually, primarily among gay and bi-sexual men. While safer sex messages are essential, I also want to emphasize the value of developing a relationship with a health care provider that you trust and, if you are at risk, getting regular screenings for sexually transmitted infections."
"As we work to stop HIV/AIDS in our community, we find this new health threat alarming," said Tokes M. Osubu, Executive Director of GMAD. "We want people to be aware of this new infection and make choices ranging from safer sex to abstinence. The fact that the LGV cases are occurring primarily in HIV positive men who have engaged in high-risk sexual practices is somber confirmation that there is still a lot of work to be done. We have an extraordinary opportunity today to be pro-active in ensuring that the spread of LGV is halted."
LCOA President Dennis DeLeon said, "LGV is not like every other sexually transmitted disease in that its effects if untreated can leave a man permanently disfigured. Latino gay men and men who do not identify as gay may be tired of hearing the same message over and over -- bring your own condom and never allow anybody to have anal sex with you without a condom. We know it is hard to be vigilant 100% of the time but diseases like this make it important to strive for 100% safe sex."
Free, confidential STD exams and treatment, and confidential or anonymous HIV testing are available at Health Department clinics, which are located in all 5 boroughs of New York City. Health insurance, proof of citizenship or parental consent are not required. For a list of clinics and hours, visit www.nyc.gov/health, or call 311.