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  Syphilis Cases Increase Significantly Among Gay and Bisexual Men for Second Consecutive Year
by GayHealth Staff

Syphilis cases have increased in New York City for the second year in a row, and the majority of cases are among men who have sex with men (MSM), according to an article in The New York Times on January 31.

The number of infections increased by about 55 percent, health officials warned.

Preliminary findings from a recent survey showed 436 new cases of the disease in 2002, more than double the number of cases in 2001, according to Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City health commissioner.

"This is a very troubling multicity outbreak that is almost exclusive among men who have sex with men," he said.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria that is transmitted during sex with an infected partner. The most common sites of infection are the penis, anus or vagina.

Concern continues to mount about whether safer sex and prevention messages are still effective, with 230 of the men also testing positive for HIV. "It shows the magnitude of the challenge of promoting safe sex and the message of prevention," Ronald Johnson, associate executive director of the Gay Men's Health Crisis told The New York Times.

Other reports have indicated similar increases in Los Angeles and Miami. (See related articles in the sidebar.)

The first symptom of syphilis is usually an ulcer on the hands, mouth or genitals. Often the sore disappears, even if left untreated. However, you will continue to be contagious and the germs can start to attack the brain, heart and the nervous system, making treatment especially important regardless of whether or not symptoms are present.

Updated: Wednesday, February 5th 2003

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