Baltimore’s Efforts To Stem Rise in Syphilis Among Gay Men Paying Off, Editorial Says
The "quick action" taken by Baltimore health officials to stem a rise in syphilis cases among gay men has "paid off," according to a Baltimore Sun editorial. The city recorded 26 new cases of syphilis among gay men during the first half of this year. That figure, though in line with reports from other major cities such as New York and San Francisco, was especially surprising in Baltimore because the city, which led the nation in syphilis cases in 1997, had experienced a "drasti[c]" overall decline in syphilis cases due to an "aggressive" outreach campaign sponsored by the city health department, the editorial says. The rise in new cases were also troublesome to health officials because it "suggested gay men were having unprotected sex" and placing themselves at risk for other sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. Officials also knew that "the cluster of cases among gay men could quickly evolve into an epidemic if left unchecked." In response, Dr. Emily Erbelding, head of STD clinical services for the city health department, and her staff "went on the offensive this summer, urging gay men in the city to get tested and to wear condoms. They issued an alert, reached out to the community, visited the gay clubs," the editorial notes. So far, those efforts have "paid off" with no new syphilis cases reported among gay men in August. The editorial notes that "people may not realize that other sexually transmitted diseases can increase the likelihood of contracting HIV," and concludes, "That's why public health professional Emily Erbelding remains vigilant despite the decline in syphilis cases among Baltimore's gay men. She isn't the only one who should be on guard" (Baltimore Sun, 9/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.