Syphilis Cases Spike in Chicago
The number of syphilis cases in Chicago rose 41 percent from 2004 to 2005, the city's Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced recently. Last year, 418 syphilis cases were reported, compared with 297 in 2004, said Dr. Will Wong, medical director for the department's STD/HIV division. Seventy-three percent of the 2005 cases were men who have sex with men (MSM).
"It's a big deal. The concern is this will lead to an increase in HIV and AIDS," said Wong. Syphilis cases among MSM nearly doubled from 162 reports in 2004 to 304 last year, CDPH data showed. According to Wong, people who have anonymous sex are especially at risk for syphilis. More than half of the MSM who tested positive for the disease reported having anonymous partners; about one-third met partners through the Internet.
CDPH is urging sexually active people to get tested for syphilis; its ad campaign on the issue promotes testing "for peace of mind." An earlier outreach, in 2001, helped cut the rate of syphilis in Chicago. MSM should get tested for syphilis every six months, while sexually active persons with HIV should be tested every three months, said Wong. Heterosexuals in high-risk groups - including drug users and those with multiple partners - should be tested at least annually, he added.
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