Jeffrey Klausner, director of sexual disease prevention at San Francisco's Department of Public Health, said Wednesday that the ability of gay men to quickly find anonymous sex partners through the Internet is leading to rising sexually transmitted disease infection rates, particularly syphilis. Klausner said 38% of recent syphilis cases diagnosed in the city are among gay men who met online, up from 20% to 25% two years ago. City officials also traced the first Internet-related outbreak of syphilis in the city in 1999 to a gay America Online chat room.
Klausner said becoming infected with diseases such as syphilis is more likely when meeting people online because men who arrange sexual encounters through the Internet tend to have more sexual partners, which puts them at a higher risk for STDs. "It brings together what we call high-risk core groups, who are particularly interested in having a lot of new partners, and it is these high-risk core groups that are the first groups to get new infections," he said. Other cities with large gay populations, including New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, also have seen rising STD infection rates among gay men.