Could a syphilis outbreak lie ahead for the US?

Syphilis cases in the United States have increased by 10 percent since 2012, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In the report, 17,357 cases of syphilis were confirmed in the country for 2013, and 91 percent of those cases were among men. Seventy-five percent were among men who had sex with men. Syphilis is a  bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) that typically presents as a painless sore on the genitals, rectum, or mouth. Because sores are painless, many individuals are unaware of the presence, allowing syphilis to spread easily from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact.  The Mayo Clinic indicates syphilis can even lie dormant in the body for decades before it becomes symptomatic and infectious to others. SEE ALSO: Sexual health: Do you know your STDs? Though syphilis can be easily cured–often with a single dose of medication–untreated cases can cause organ damage, increase the transmission of HIV, or can even become life-threatening. Because of the close connection between syphilis and HIV/AIDS, many HIV/AIDS organizations place a heavy emphasis on syphilis treatment and prevention. “From the beginning, AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) has stressed the importance of consistent condom usage as a time-tested, proven method for preventing the spread of STDs, including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and HIV,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein in a statement. “For over a decade, we’ve watched syphilis rates climb higher and higher—especially in our own backyard.  By placing our ‘Syphilis Explosion’ billboards in high-traffic areas around Los Angeles, we wanted to provide an arresting, visual daily reminder to our neighbors of how condoms are essential to protecting themselves from STDs and maintaining sexual health.” Condom use among men having sex with men is not where it needs to be to address the growing number of syphilis cases, however. In 2012, researchers from George Mason University looked at the condom habits of men having sex with men and found that only 1 in 3 acts of anal intercourse were protected by a condom. What’s more, many men felt they were protected from STIs because they didn’t ejaculate within their partners. When it comes to syphilis this method of protection is extremely ineffective because syphilis sores are often on the outlying areas of the genitals. Some men argue that condoms aren’t effective against syphilis because sores aren’t always covered by condom material. While this is true, experts agree condom usage is a far better options than not using a barrier of protection. “While gay and bisexual men have been the focus of many public health campaigns given the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS in their communities, there remains a need to understand how these men live their sexual lives and the manner in which the specific characteristics of their sexual activities influence condom use,” said co-author Michael Reece, in a statement at the time. “A one size-fits-all approach to increasing condom use does not work better among these communities than we would expect it to for their heterosexual counterparts.” Due to the contagious nature of syphilis, it is important all sexually active people are aware of the symptoms and have regular STI screenings. SEE ALSO: STDs you can get from anal sex Syphilis begins with a painless sore but may also include a rash on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. Warts, white patches in the mouth, fever, and weight loss can all be symptoms of syphilis. While sores are present, syphilis can be spread to others.The post Could a syphilis outbreak lie ahead for the US? appeared first on Voxxi.

Syphilis numbers have increased by 10 percent since 2012. (Shutterstock)

Syphilis cases in the United States have increased by 10 percent since 2012, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In the report, 17,357 cases of syphilis were confirmed in the country for 2013, and 91 percent of those cases were among men. Seventy-five percent were among men who had sex with men.

Syphilis is a  bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) that typically presents as a painless sore on the genitals, rectum, or mouth. Because sores are painless, many individuals are unaware of the presence, allowing syphilis to spread easily from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact.  The Mayo Clinic indicates syphilis can even lie dormant in the body for decades before it becomes symptomatic and infectious to others.

SEE ALSO: Sexual health: Do you know your STDs?

Though syphilis can be easily cured–often with a single dose of medication–untreated cases can cause organ damage, increase the transmission of HIV, or can even become life-threatening. Because of the close connection between syphilis and HIV/AIDS, many HIV/AIDS organizations place a heavy emphasis on syphilis treatment and prevention.

“From the beginning, AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) has stressed the importance of consistent condom usage as a time-tested, proven method for preventing the spread of STDs, including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and HIV,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein in a statement.

“For over a decade, we’ve watched syphilis rates climb higher and higher—especially in our own backyard.  By placing our ‘Syphilis Explosion’ billboards in high-traffic areas around Los Angeles, we wanted to provide an arresting, visual daily reminder to our neighbors of how condoms are essential to protecting themselves from STDs and maintaining sexual health.”

Condom use among men having sex with men is not where it needs to be to address the growing number of syphilis cases, however. In 2012, researchers from George Mason University looked at the condom habits of men having sex with men and found that only 1 in 3 acts of anal intercourse were protected by a condom. What’s more, many men felt they were protected from STIs because they didn’t ejaculate within their partners. When it comes to syphilis this method of protection is extremely ineffective because syphilis sores are often on the outlying areas of the genitals.

STDs are dangerous.
It is important to have regular checkups if you are sexually active. (Shutterstock)

Some men argue that condoms aren’t effective against syphilis because sores aren’t always covered by condom material. While this is true, experts agree condom usage is a far better options than not using a barrier of protection.

“While gay and bisexual men have been the focus of many public health campaigns given the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS in their communities, there remains a need to understand how these men live their sexual lives and the manner in which the specific characteristics of their sexual activities influence condom use,” said co-author Michael Reece, in a statement at the time.

“A one size-fits-all approach to increasing condom use does not work better among these communities than we would expect it to for their heterosexual counterparts.”

Due to the contagious nature of syphilis, it is important all sexually active people are aware of the symptoms and have regular STI screenings.

SEE ALSO: STDs you can get from anal sex

Syphilis begins with a painless sore but may also include a rash on the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. Warts, white patches in the mouth, fever, and weight loss can all be symptoms of syphilis. While sores are present, syphilis can be spread to others.

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The post Could a syphilis outbreak lie ahead for the US? appeared first on Voxxi.