US: Syphilis on the rise among gay and bisexual men

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The number of cases of syphilis in the US jumped 10% from 2012 to 2013, with gay and bisexual men accounting for 75% of the increase, new figures show.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17,357 cases of syphilis were reported in 2013 – a rate of 5.5 per 100,000 people.

Rates of chlamydia fell for the first time in 30 years, with more than 1.4 million reported cases in 2013, a 1.5% decrease from 2012.

“There are over 20 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases [STDs] every year in the United States, and they continue to pose a risk of lifelong complications for millions of Americans,” said Dr Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

Medical Press reports Dr Mermin said there were various reasons that put gay and bisexual men at high risk of contracting syphilis.

“Some are the high number of sexual partners and sexual networks that create a vicious cycle where the prevalence of syphilis is higher. And that leads to higher incidence, which leads to higher prevalence, and that cycle can increase the frequency of infection,” he said.

Syphilis is easy to cure with antibiotics if caught early.

If left untreated, chlamydia can result in severe reproductive health complications, including ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening condition in which the fertilized egg attaches outside the uterus, and infertility.

Fred Wyand, a spokesman for the American Sexual Health Association, said the stigma of an STD shouldn’t keep people from being diagnosed and treated.

“Having an STD doesn’t mean someone is dirty or broken,” he said. “Far from it.

“One of the great barriers to having sexual health conversations is the sense of embarrassment. People need to have frank, open conversations,” he added. “It’s not about sex, it’s about health.”