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U.S. Syphilis Rates Rise among Gay and Bisexual Men

Update Date: May 09, 2014 10:04 AM EDT

According to a new federal report, the number of syphilis cases within the United States has risen over the past few years particularly in gay and bisexual men. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the latest numbers are alarming since syphilis, which is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), was nearly eliminated within the nation over a decade ago. The increase in cases suggests that people are making risky sexual decisions that could also increase their risk of other dangerous STIs, such as HIV, the incurable human immunodeficiency virus.

For this report, the agency only looked at people with primary or secondary syphilis, which are the two most contagious stages of the disease. The CDC reported that in 2013, the rate of syphilis increased to 5.3 cases per 100,000 people. Back in 2000, the rate was just 2.1 cases for every 100,00 people. From 2005 to 2013, the report found that the number of cases rose from 8,724 to 16,663, which is nearly doubled.

The researchers found that the spike in syphilis cases was mostly in gay and bisexual men. In 2013, roughly 91 percent of all the reported cases were in men, with the highest rates in black men. However, the largest increases in rates were in Hispanic and white men. For women, syphilis rates fell between 2008 and 2013 from 1.5 cases to 0.9 cases per 100,000 people. The CDC reported that traditional strategies used to help reduce the rate of syphilis have not been particularly effective for gay and bisexual men.

"We've got to re-evaluate and look at new approaches that we can use to drive these rates down," said Gail Bolan, director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention reported by HuffPost.

The report, "Primary and Secondary Syphilis - United States, 2005-2013," was published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

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