Infection rates of three treatable sexually transmitted diseases are up among men who have sex with men, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control. Syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia affect gay and bisexual men more than straight men and women, the report says.
In 2010 the overall syphilis rate decreased for the first time in a decade, down 1.6 percent since 2009, however, it increased slightly among men. Men who have sex with men and African-Americans are most affected by syphilis. Gay and bisexual men accounted for 67 percent of all reported cases and the rate among young black men has increased dramatically, up 134 percent since 2006.
Reports of diagnosed cases of chlamydia have been steadily increasing for 20 years and there were 1.3 million cases in 2010. While the increase reflects expanded screening efforts, not an actual increase in the number of people infected with chlamydia, a majority of infections still go undiagnosed, according to the CDC.
Gonorrhea rates are at historic lows, however, more than 300,000 cases were diagnosed in 2010. There are also signs that the disease may become resistant to the only available treatment option.
Untreated syphilis can lead to serious long-term complications, including brain, cardiovascular, and organ damage. Syphilis in pregnant women can also result in congenital syphilis (syphilis among infants), which can cause stillbirth, death soon after birth, and physical deformity and neurological complications in children who survive. Untreated syphilis in pregnant women results in infant death in up to 40 percent of cases.
Studies suggest that people with gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis are at increased risk for HIV. Given the increase in both syphilis and HIV among young black gay and bisexual men, it is particularly urgent to diagnose and treat both diseases.
Utah AIDS Foundation
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Utah Pride Center
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361 N. 300 West, Salt Lake City