What else should I know?
- A simple blood test can tell if you have been infected.
- Syphilis is 100% curable (why get tested).
- You can get a free or low cost, confidential test any day of the week at many locations throughout the city.
- Your primary care physician can also do the test for you.
- Syphilis is on the rise across the country and in European cities, but efforts around awareness, education and increased testing are playing a big role in containing the disease here in Chicago as compared to other major urban areas (see statistics).
- Sometimes men with syphilis don't recognize the symptoms at first. If untreated, the symptoms will go away, but you are still infectious - you still have syphilis and can pass it to others. Left untreated, syphilis can cause major organ damage, or worse.
- Syphilis makes it three to five times easier to get or give HIV.
A few statistics:
Chicago has been and continues to be one of the places with the largest number of syphilis cases in the United States. In the past ten years, syphilis has decreased dramatically in Chicago, from 582 cases of symptomatic syphilis in 1995 to the all time low of 267 in 2003. Syphilis cases rose in both 2004 and 2005, but showed a decrease for 2006 of 37% in the first six months.
Most of the cases are male with the majority identifying as men having sex with men (MSM). Women make up only 12% of the reported cases syphilis and only two babies have been presumptively diagnosed with congenital syphilis.
The majority of the cases among MSM are linked to anonymous sex in bars, bathhouses, bookstores, and other public sex environments, with an ever-increasing number stating they meet partners on the internet.
Of continuing concern is the use of “party drugs,” including crystal methamphetamine, Ecstasy, Viagra, and poppers.
There continues to be a high rate of HIV-syphilis co-infection especially among MSM. Chicago has an overall syphilis-HIV coinfection rate of 46%, but this number is deceiving. The percentage co-infected for women is 6% and heterosexual men is 5%; whereas, the percentage for MSM is 66% (58/89). This points out the need for HIV testing on all syphilis cases and for those who are HIV positive to have regular syphilis tests.
If you're sexually active, make syphilis testing part of your routine.
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