Minnesota Health Department Issues Second Alert Concerning Syphilis Outbreak
The Minnesota Health Department has for the second time this year issued an alert about an increase in the number of reported syphilis cases in the stats to 300 clinics and community organizations, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The health department recorded 50 new syphilis cases in the first eight months of this year, compared with 32 during the same period in 2001, according to Julia Ashley, an assistant manager with the department. Thirty-four of the 50 new cases occurred among gay and bisexual men, marking a tenfold increase in cases among this group compared to last year, and 19 of the new cases occurred in people also infected with HIV. There were only two cases of HIV/syphilis co-infection reported in 2001. Minnesota officials reported earlier this year that HIV infections are also increasing in the state and that the majority of new HIV cases are occurring among gay and bisexual men. Health officials said the rise in cases of the two diseases is "alarming" because it indicates that more people are engaging in unprotected sex, placing them at risk for acquiring STDs. They noted that the rise in syphilis is particularly concerning because the disease increases a person's risk of contracting HIV by two to five times. According to the CDC, people have become less vigilant about taking sexual precautions in part because the success of antiretroviral therapy in fighting HIV progression has led people to believe that HIV can be managed. The agency also noted that decades of safe sex campaigns have led to safe-sex "burnout" and that young gay and bisexual men often do not perceive themselves to be at risk for the disease (Marcotty, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.