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Number of New Syphilis Cases in Los Angeles County Increased By More Than 40% in 2005

June 6, 2006

The number of new syphilis cases in Los Angeles County increased by more than 40% from 2004 to 2005 after staying relatively level the previous two years, according to a report released last week by the county Department of Health Services, the Los Angeles Times reports. The report finds that 1,217 cases were reported in Los Angeles County in 2005, compared with 865 in 2004. Men who have sex with men accounted for two-thirds of the new cases, according to the report. Cases among women rose 56%, from 89 in 2004 to 139 in 2005, and accounted for 11% of all new cases. Most of the new infections in women occurred among blacks and Latinas, according to the report. There was a 49% increase in new cases among blacks, a 42% increase among Latinos and a 29% increase among whites, the data show. The report's findings follow a $1 million syphilis awareness campaign in the county called "Stop the Sores" -- which was launched by county health department in 2002 and continued through last year -- that focused on raising awareness of and increasing testing for the sexually transmitted infection. According to Peter Kerndt, director of the county health department's sexually transmitted infection program, evaluations showed that the campaign led to higher rates of testing and increased the frequency with which HIV care providers tested for syphilis. Kerndt said bisexual men could be fueling the rise in syphilis cases among women by transmitting the virus to their female partners. "We were hoping there would be a leveling in light of the earlier two-year trend," Kerndt said, adding, "So the fact that it's continued to rise, that's of concern." Kerndt also said that an increase in cases among minority populations suggests rising sexual activity between white MSM and minority partners. According to Kerndt, the county health department might launch an anti-syphilis public health campaign specifically aimed at Hollywood, West Hollywood and South Los Angeles (Chung, Los Angeles Times, 6/4).

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