Syphilis cases in Oregon have hit a nine-year high, with much of the increase being blamed on unprotected sex among gay and bisexual men, The Oregonian reports. The state recorded 47 new cases in 2002, up from 22 in 2001. State health officials say the increase is due to increasing rates of unprotected sex, particularly among gay and bisexual men and sex workers. "Somebody who gets syphilis is not having protected sex," said state epidemiologist Mel Kohn. "They're not using a condom. So it's sort of a marker for a bunch of sexual risks [including] that they might be spreading HIV."
Health workers and safer-sex advocates say they are now redoubling their efforts to encourage Oregon residents to practice safer sex to help prevent further increases in syphilis infection rates. Plans are under way to launch syphilis prevention efforts in the media as well as in bars and clubs, online chat rooms, and other venues frequented by people at high risk for the infection.