HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Diseases,
Prevention News Update
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
December 27, 2002
Local and Community News
Syphilis Outbreak in
Los Angeles County Leads to Calls for More Testing
In Los Angeles, a 62 percent increase in syphilis
cases reported by gay men countywide has prompted health advocates to call
for more outreach and testing programs. The increase represents about 360
new cases reported this year. It alarms health advocates because many of
the syphilis patients were already diagnosed with HIV.
"The implications are that gay men are having more
unprotected sex," said Karen Mall, director of prevention for the AIDS
Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles. Although curable, "syphilis can lead
to neurological problems, blindness and even death," Mall warned. "If you
are HIV positive and contract syphilis, complications can come much sooner
and be much more powerful."
Mall said syphilis rates have been rising since
spring 2000. Earlier this year, CDC reported a 68 percent increase in
syphilis cases in California in 2001 compared to 2000.
"Since AIDS has become treatable and people aren't
dying in great numbers we've gotten complacent and safer sex is taking a
back-seat," said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare
Foundation. He noted the need for more testing centers and outreach
programs to stop the spread of syphilis, citing increased testing as one
reason for Baltimore's recent reduction in cases. He chided the gay
community for not taking a stronger role in fighting STDs: "In places like
West Hollywood, where alcohol and sex are primary industries, those
communities have a responsibility to promote safer sex and make condoms
A recent survey of gay bars in West Hollywood found
only 57 percent of 14 establishments participating in a city-sponsored
free condom program.
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for Disease Control and Prevention.