Health officials in Franklin County, Ohio, home to Columbus, say syphilis rates are rising dramatically among gay and bisexual men in the region, with 124 new cases reported so far this year, the Columbus Dispatch reports. The increase is linked to rising rates of unprotected sex, health officials say. "Franklin County is no different in what we see all over the country," Jeff Vasiloff, chief of HIV and sexually transmitted disease protection for the Ohio Department of Health told the Dispatch.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Franklin County ranks 14th among counties nationwide in the number of reported syphilis cases in 2002. The state ranks 22nd in new syphilis infections. Health officials in Ohio say syphilis infections are declining among women and African-Americans; the increases are seen almost entirely among gay and bisexual men. David Andrist of the Columbus AIDS Task Force warns gay men that they can contract syphilis through the genitals, anus, mouth, or lips. "Most people are contracting syphilis through oral sex," he told the Dispatch.