The Chicago health department and the city's Syphilis Elimination Task Force, a public-private
collaboration launched in August 2001, report that Chicago continues to buck a national trend of rising rates of syphilis infection among gay and bisexual men. In the first six months of 2004, reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis are down 24% compared with the same period last year. The numbers also are down about 25% from 2002 levels. The decline comes as most major U.S. cities report climbing syphilis numbers, particularly among gay and bisexual men. New syphilis cases are up this year in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and New York City. Men who have sex with men continue to account for most of Chicago's new syphilis cases, making up 58 of 109 new cases reported. But this number is down 37% from the same period last year, when 92 cases were reported among gay and bisexual men.
"This is truly public health in action," says Christopher Brown, assistant commissioner for STD/HIV/AIDS for the city health department. "While we must keep our eyes on the prize and continue this downward trend, we are excited to be leading the nation in syphilis elimination efforts." The city plans to launch another syphilis awareness campaign in September to continue reaching Chicago's communities most affected by syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases.