Health officials in the United Kingdom reported this week that syphilis rates in the U.K. have soared during the past two years, with the infection rate up 67% among men and 33% among women between 2001 and 2002, Reuters Health reports. Most of the new infections were reported in London, where the majority of the cases are occurring among gay and bisexual men. Gay men also account for most of the new infections in Brighton and Manchester; heterosexual contact is causing most of the new cases only in Bristol.
"Diagnoses of syphilis made in genitourinary medicine clinics are the highest seen since 1984, before the time of widespread awareness to HIV/AIDS in the U.K.," the report stated. "The characteristics of the outbreaks are very similar to those seen in Western Europe and the United States, infection being associated with high-incidence areas, high rates of partner change within risk groups, and concurrent HIV infection." The report traced many of the infections to people who met casual or anonymous sex partners in saunas, sex clubs, and cruising areas as well as to partners who met on the Internet.