U.S. Syphilis Rates Climbs for Second Consecutive Year with Massive Surge Among Homosexual Men

Mon Nov 24, 2003 - 12:15 pm EST

WASHINGTON, November 24, 2003 ( - The syphilis rate in the United States rose in 2002 for the second consecutive year, following a decade-long decline that led to an all-time low in 2000, according to new data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The overall increase occurred despite continued declines in syphilis among African Americans and women. The increase is due to large increases in reported syphilis cases among men, particularly “gay and bisexual men” according to a report from the Centers for the Disease Control (CDC).  The data, published in the November 21 issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), indicate that between 2001 and 2002, the overall rate of syphilis increased 9.1 percent, from 2.2 cases to 2.4 cases per 100,000 population - the highest rate since 1999. The total number of reported cases increased 12.4 percent, from 6,103 to 6,862 cases. However, since some syphilis cases go undiagnosed, the actual number of infections is likely higher.  Syphilis cases among men increased 27.4 percent between 2001 and 2002 (from 4,134 to 5,267 cases). CDC does not collect syphilis data by sexual orientation; however, study authors estimate that more than 40 percent of all syphilis cases reported in 2002 occurred among gay and bisexual men, accounting for much of the reported overall increase in the disease.  Recent research has highlighted increases in unprotected sex among some groups of men who have sex with men (MSM), as well as high rates of HIV co-infection among men diagnosed with syphilis (averaging about 50 percent). These findings, plus HIV surveillance data from a recent CDC 25-state study showing a 17.7 percent increase in HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men between 1999 and 2002, have raised concerns about a resurgence of HIV in this population.  See the CDC report online at:

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