CDC: Gay men vast majority of syphilis cases

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imageThis week, the Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control & Prevention released its 2009 findings on infection trends for gonorrhea, Chlamydia and syphilis. For gay men, the news is particularly alarming.

The CDC reports that since 2000, the largest increase in syphilis cases has been among men who have sex with men. In 2009, gay and bisexual men accounted for nearly two-thirds of all 14,000 cases in the U.S.; 62 percent of reported cases in 2009, versus just 4 percent of cases in 2000.

Within the group of men infected, African Americans are reported to be nine times more likely than whites to contract the disease, and four times higher than Hispanics. More grim, black men aged 15-24 represent the most significant increase of cases.

As early as 2005, the CDC pointed fingers directly at Atlanta as a hotbed for a renewed, rampant spread of syphilis and said sex between men was the primary source for the resurgence. Before 2000, the disease was considered all but eradicated in the U.S.

As long as we’re bearing bad news, while Chlamydia and gonorrhea are not showing higher rates among gay men, those diseases along with syphilis are considered high indicators of future HIV infections. So gay men who do contract them may have weakened immune systems, and outbreaks may aide the spread of HIV, making sufferers more at-risk.

The CDC specifically recommends for gay and bisexual men to be tested for all four STDs–Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV–at least annually. The institution is also working toward a Syphilis Elimination Plan that will create targeted action plans to reach those at greatest risk, particularly young black men and men who have sex with men.

Now for the good news: Atlanta already has testing in place within LGBT-run non-profits. HIV and other STD screening tests for men take place several times a week at Positive Impact. HIV tests are also available AID Atlanta, AID Gwinnett, and YouthPride, among other organizations.

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