A study presented Tuesday at the 11th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in San Francisco shows that the sharp increase in the number of new syphilis cases among gay men in the city has not resulted in a similar increase in new HIV infections, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Researchers examined data from nearly 51,000 gay and bisexual men from 1998 through 2004 and discovered that while syphilis cases reported among gay men climbed from 40 per year in 1998 to more than 600 a year in 2003, HIV prevalence among gay patients treated for syphilis was steady or even declining. Health officials had worried that the unprotected sex causing the rise in syphilis infections also would boost HIV infection rates among gay men, which have been increasing since the mid 1990s.
"We may have reached another turning point--and for the better," Willi McFarland, chief AIDS epidemiologist for the city health department, told the Chronicle. But Jeffrey Klausner, director of sexually transmitted disease control for the San Francisco health department, isn't sure that the increase in HIV infection rates seen over the past few years has been reversed. "I'd say we've reached a plateau," he said. "I'd have to wait and see if we have a downward trend."