New Syphilis Infections in San Francisco Expected To Increase by More Than 50% This Year, Health Officials Say
The San Francisco Department of Public Health expects to report 750 new syphilis infections by the end of this year, up 50% from the 494 new cases reported for 2002, officials said Thursday, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports. The majority of cases have been reported among men who have sex with multiple male and female partners, and two-thirds of new cases have been reported in HIV-positive people, according to health officials. Those cases are "alarming," as they may indicate that individuals are engaging in unprotected sex despite their HIV-positive status, the AP/Chronicle reports. Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, director of the health department's sexually transmitted diseases unit, said not enough people tell their physicians about sexual health and therefore are not tested for syphilis or HIV. "Many people have lost their awareness or appreciation of syphilis as a health problem," Klausner added (Lydon, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/25).
Advocacy groups and health officials said the rising syphilis infection rate may be caused by "prevention message fatigue," in which people may be less likely to use condoms because of an increased availability of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV and AIDS. In response, San Francisco public health authorities and gay community group leaders Thursday announced a new initiative that will increase the number of STD test facilities, including a new gay men's health center in the city's Castro district. The campaign also is intended to increase awareness of STD testing among doctors and men who have sex with men, the Chronicle reports (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/26). The campaign should alleviate the social stigma attached to STDs and encourage testing, according to Les Pappas, a social marketing executive who created the Healthy Penis 2003 campaign (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.