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U.S. Syphilis Rate Grows for 7th Year in Row
Date:3/12/2008

Increase largely driven by new cases among gay, bisexual men, CDC reports

WEDNESDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- For the seventh year in a row, rates of syphilis infection have increased in the United States, driven largely by cases among gay and bisexual men, according to a new federal report.

"CDC's preliminary 2007 data indicate that the rate of primary and secondary syphilis -- the earliest and most infectious stages of the disease -- increased by 12 percent between 2006 and 2007," Dr. Hillard Weinstock, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of STD Prevention, said during a Wednesday teleconference. Weinstock spoke at the CDC-sponsored 2008 National STD Prevention Conference in Chicago.

The number of reported cases of syphilis increased from 9,756 in 2006 to 11,181 in 2007, Weinstock said. "This is the seventh consecutive annual increase in national syphilis rates," he said.

Continuing with recent trends, 2007 statistics showed that men who have sex with men accounted for the majority of syphilis cases in the United States and contributed significantly to the overall increase in the disease among men, Weinstock said.

"The syphilis rate among men increased 14 percent from 2006. It was six times higher than the rate among women. Men who have sex with men comprised approximately 64 percent of reported syphilis cases in 2007," he said.

The increase in the syphilis rates among gay and bisexual men is a significant health concern, Weinstock said. "Syphilis, like other STDs [sexually transmitted diseases], can increase the likelihood of HIV transmission two- to five-fold. For individuals already infected with HIV, syphilis can increase viral load, which can accelerate HIV disease progression and the potential for HIV transmission," he said.

The CDC recommends that gay and bisexual men be tested for syphilis and other STDs at least once a year. However, sev
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