U.S. syphilis rate hits all-time low, but increases posted among gay men

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com October 21 2002 11:00 PM ET

Although the U.S. syphilis rate hit an all-time low in 2000, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infection rates are up among gay men in many urban areas. CDC officials say quick responses to local outbreaks and a nationwide awareness campaign launched in 1998 are at the heart of the declining national rate, down from 20.3 cases per 100,000 people in 1990 to just 2.2 cases per 100,000 people in 2000, the lowest level since the government began tracking the sexually transmitted disease in 1941. CDC officials believe the rate will drop to just 4 per 1 million people by 2005.

But while syphilis infections are down as a whole across the country, they are on the rise in many urban areas, with most new cases among men being reported among gay and bisexual men. Health officials in Detroit are projecting 500 new infections by the end of 2002, up from 288 in 2000, with a majority occurring among men who have sex with men. In New York, 282 syphilis cases were reported in 2001, up from 117 in 2000. Gay and bisexual men accounted for nearly three quarters of the new infections.