Figures released last week by the New York City mayor's office show that for the 12-month period ending July 1, there were 357 new cases of syphilis recorded in the city, up 90% from the previous one-year period. The increase is due to jumps in unprotected sex, particularly among gay and bisexual men, according to the report, titled "Mayor's Management Report." Syphilis infection makes it easier to be infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases because of the open sores associated with the condition.
"The concern here really is primarily for what this heralds and what it symbolizes in terms of the risk of increased spread of HIV," said Thomas Frieden, commissioner of the New York City health department. "Not only do HIV and syphilis spread in the same way through unsafe sex, but you're more likely to spread HIV if you have syphilis. We need to be more effective with our prevention messages about avoiding sex with anonymous partners, always using a condom, and we have to emphasize that despite the fact that there are good treatments for HIV these days, it remains a fatal disease."