Wed, Aug 03, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Syphilis up among US minorities’ gay and bisexual men

Reuters, NEW YORK

The rising US syphilis rate appears to be disproportionately striking minority gay and bisexual men, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The increase in the disease, which has been on the rise in the US since 2000, raises concerns not only because of syphilis itself, but also because the infection makes people more vulnerable to contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The new findings, reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine, show that minorities — and young men, in particular those who are gay or bisexual — are being hit hardest by syphilis, which can be easily cured by antibiotics in the early stages, but may not show symptoms early on.

The bottom line in prevention among gay and bisexual men is awareness, said lead researcher John Su, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC.

“First, you have to know you’re at risk. Then have a frank discussion about it with your healthcare provider,” he said.

Using data from 27 states, CDC researchers found that between 2005 and 2008, the syphilis rate among black gay and bisexual men rose at an eight times faster pace than for their white counterparts.

Hispanic gay and bisexual men, meanwhile, had more than twice the increase of white men.

By 2008, the syphilis rate among black gay and bisexual men was 19 per 100,000. The rate was slightly more than 7 per 100,000 among Hispanic men, and 4 per 100,000 among white men.

There has also been a shift in the age group most affected by syphilis, with teenagers and men in their 20s showing the biggest increase since 2005. Ten years ago, outbreaks of syphilis were mainly reported among gay and bisexual men in their 30s.

Racial disparities in syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have long been seen among US men in general, so the current findings are not especially surprising, but the magnitude of the racial gap is worrisome, Su said.

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