Higher Syphilis Rates Among Blacks, MSM Propel Increase in Overall National Rate, CDC Says
Increases in syphilis rates among blacks and men who have sex with men significantly contribute to the steady climb in the overall number of cases of the disease over the past several years, CDC researchers said on Wednesday, AP/New York Times reports (Tanner, AP/New York Times, 3/12).
Hillard Weinstock of CDC's Division of STD Prevention presented the report via teleconference at the National 2008 STD Prevention Conference in Chicago. According to Weinstock, preliminary CDC data indicate that the rate of primary and secondary syphilis increased by 12% from 2006 to 2007. Primary and secondary syphilis are the most infectious stages of the disease. There were 11,181 cases reported last year, compared with 9,756 in 2006, he said, noting that rates have risen for seven consecutive years. MSM accounted for 64% of all syphilis cases in 2007, he said.
Among blacks, the rate increased 22% from 2006 to 2007, the fourth consecutive increase after more than 10 years of a steady decline, Weinstock said (Reinberg, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 3/12). Syphilis rates were seven times higher for black men and 14 times higher for black women than their white counterparts, and the rate for black men increased 99% since 2003 (Dunham, Reuters, 3/12). Overall, the rate of syphilis among blacks was seven times higher than among whites in 2007, Weinstock said. However, the rate among blacks "represents a substantial decline from 1999 when the syphilis rate among African-Americans was 29 times that of whites," he said (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 3/12).
CDC officials said the increasing syphilis rate is troubling because the disease can elevate a person's risk of contracting or transmitting HIV (Reuters, 3/12). Lack of compliance with recommended annual screenings for sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis, among MSM is partly the cause of the overall climb in the rate, CDC officials say (AP/New York Times, 3/12). Weinstock said CDC recommends that sexually active MSM get tested for syphilis and other STIs annually (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 3/12).