Number of New Syphilis Cases in New York City Increases 55%
The number of new syphilis cases in New York City increased 55% from 2001 to 2002, with the increase "primarily" among men who have sex with men, according to health department officials, the New York Times reports. Preliminary results of a recent health department survey indicated that 436 new cases of syphilis were diagnosed in 2002 in the city, compared with 282 new cases in 2001 and 117 new cases in 2000, according to Dr. Thomas Frieden, the city's health commissioner. The sharpest increase in newly reported cases was among white men living in Manhattan, but African-American and Hispanic men throughout the city continue to report high syphilis infection rates, according to Frieden. The survey also indicated that 230 of the men who were diagnosed with syphilis in 2002 also tested positive for HIV, the Times reports. Health officials said the findings could be a "troubling sign" that some cross-sections of the city's population are "ignoring warnings" about unprotected sex. Aaron Glatt, head of infectious disease for St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, said, "The numbers are still relatively small compared with other major health issues like AIDS. But it's extremely disconcerting that the cases are continuing to go up and not down." Ronald Johnson, associate executive director of Gay Men's Health Crisis, said the new information "shows the magnitude of the challenge of promoting safe sex and the message of prevention." He said that the "HIV safer sex message [that] worked in the late 80s and 90s ... has to be retailored to a new generation of gay and bisexual men." Similar increases in new syphilis cases have been seen in Los Angeles, Miami and Houston. "This is a very troubling multicity outbreak that is almost exclusive among men who have sex with men," Frieden said (Christian, New York Times, 1/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.