January 21st, 2011 | Published in Syphilis Fast Facts
Syphilis cases are all-time high nationwide and have even reached epidemic levels in some areas of the country. In San Francisco, early stage syphilis increased 25% in 2010 from the previous year. Between January 2010 and November 2010, 582 cases of syphilis were reported making this a record high for the city. During the last epidemic, syphilis cases peaked at 552 incidences.
With one month left to calculate still, health officials find this increase troubling. This increase is particularly concerning because it is not affecting any new demographics and increasing only among gay men. There are no increases among heterosexual men or women.
The typical syphilis patient is a white male in his 40s or 50s. Additionally, almost one third of patients who tested positive for syphilis reported using methamphetamines in the last 12 months and 60% were HIV positive. Drug use can hinder condom use promoting the spread of syphilis, HIV, and other STDs.
Syphilis can be difficult to diagnose. The first symptom is a single, painless chancre that eventually clears up on its own. However, patients often do not seek treatment until a reddish rash appears during the secondary stages. Since syphilis has been fairly rare until recently, doctors often misdiagnose the condition at this point.
The San Francisco Department of Health is developing a campaign to promote awareness and testing for syphilis. Health official recommend that gay males are screened every three to six months for syphilis.