San Francisco Health Officials Launch Web Site To Combat Rise in Number of Syphilis Cases
San Francisco health officials have launched a new Web site, www.stdtest.org, to combat the "alarming" rise in new syphilis cases, AP/USA Today reports. More than 1,000 new syphilis cases have been diagnosed in San Francisco since 1999, when only 47 cases were reported. Last year, 595 new cases were identified, almost double the number reported in 2001, and two-thirds of the cases were among HIV-positive men, according to AP/USA Today (AP/USA Today, 6/19). Syphilis can cause open sores in its early stages, which facilitates HIV transmission, and if left untreated by antibiotics, syphilis can cause paralysis, dementia and blindness in its later stages (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/6). On the new Web site, people who want to be tested for syphilis can print out laboratory slips containing a nine-digit identification number instead of their name. After having blood drawn at a lab, their syphilis test results are posted online with the corresponding identification number, according to AP/USA Today.
Public health officials are turning to the Internet to help fight the disease because "[n]early 40% of new syphilis cases have met their sex partners online," according to Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health sexually transmitted disease unit. Deb Levine of Internet Sexuality Information Services said that the Web site is not "strictly anonymous" because people who test positive for syphilis will be contacted by the health department for mandatory counseling and follow-up using personal information entered before receiving the identification number, according to AP/USA Today. However, Levine said that that aspect does not lessen the site's value, adding, "It reduces any kind of embarrassment of having to discuss [syphilis] with your doctor. It reduces the time it would take to go to a public health clinic" (AP/USA Today, 6/19).