(EDGE) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show a 15 percent increase in the number of syphilis infections from 2013 to 2014 alone. Two new studies presented at the 2016 STD Prevention Conference suggest that syphilis is taking a particularly severe toll on gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM), especially in the South.
These studies underscore the critical importance of syphilis screening and care for gay and bisexual men. Prompt diagnosis and complete antibiotic treatment is essential to cure syphilis infections, prevent long-term health complications and stop the spread of infection.
CDC Presents First-Ever State-Level Syphilis Rates Among MSM
For the first time, CDC researchers have calculated the state-level primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis rates among MSM. The rates were developed using preliminary 2015 national syphilis case report data and 2014 population estimates of the number of adult MSM by state.
Researchers developed rates for the 44 states that reported the sex of partners for at least 70 percent of the men diagnosed with P&S syphilis in 2015. Estimates of syphilis rates among MSM vary from 73.1 per 100,000 in Alaska to 748.3 in North Carolina. The state data show syphilis disproportionately affects MSM in the South and the West, with four of the five states with the highest rates of P&S among MSM located in the South: North Carolina (748.3 per 100K), Mississippi (658.9 per 100K), Louisiana (601.8 per 100K) and South Carolina (536.9 per 100K).
Nationally, the data show the estimated P&S syphilis rate among MSM is 309 cases per 100,000.
CDC Data Show Significant Increase In Syphilis Screening Among MSM
Using National HIV Behavioral Surveillance data from 2008, 2011, and 2014, researchers assessed syphilis testing and diagnoses trends among MSM in 20 U.S. cities. In 2014, nearly half (49 percent) of MSM reported that they had been screened for syphilis within the previous 12 months, up from 37 percent in 2008. Among those screened, the percentage who reported testing positive increased from 9 percent to 11 percent. The findings suggest that providers are increasingly aware of the risk and need for annual screening for syphilis among MSM, but rates are still low among MSM at high risk for the disease.
Screening was most common among MSM at highest risk, including those who were HIV-positive (68 percent), and those with more than 10 sexual partners in the past 12 months (65 percent). Diagnoses increases were greatest among MSM who were black (9 percent to 14 percent), HIV-positive (15 percent to 21 percent), and those with 10 or more sexual partners (11 percent to 17 percent).