Public health officials in Los Angeles are concerned that the annual White Party, a circuit party event being held April 17-21 in Palm Springs, Calif., will result in numerous syphilis infections among party attendees who engage in unprotected sex, the Los Angeles Times reports. Over the past two years the number of syphilis and other sexually transmitted disease cases in the Palm Springs area have risen dramatically, with nearly all of the new infections occurring among gay and bisexual men. Palm Springs has one of the highest per capita syphilis infection rates in the nation.
About 30,000 gay men will be attending the White Party events in Palm Springs. "We're nervous that [partygoers are] going to take [syphilis] there, and we're nervous that they're going to bring it home," said Peter Kerndt, director of STD control in Los Angeles County. Health officials also worry that the unsafe sex practices that can lead to syphilis infection also could result in HIV transmissions.
White Party organizers and California health agencies are planning to distribute information about syphilis prevention and safer sex at hotels and bars throughout the Palm Springs area as well as at official White Party events. "The safety and comfort of my patrons is my number 1 priority," said White Party founder Jeffrey Sanker. "The continued risk of HIV infection as well as the recent outbreak of syphilis cases in the Palm Springs area are both issues we certainly cannot ignore."