Newly diagnosed syphilis cases in Boston rose 43.8% in 2003, with most of the new infections occurring among gay and bisexual men, the Boston Herald reports. The city reported 69 new syphilis cases in 2003--a rate of about 11.5 cases per 100,000 residents. The city had the sixth highest rate of the sexually transmitted disease nationwide in 2002, up from ranking 28th in 2001, and behind only San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, and Newark, N.J.
Boston public health commissioner John Auerbach blamed the increase on a 37% cut in state funding over the past three years for HIV education, prevention, and treatment services, which helped educate state residents about safer sex and condom use, which also can help prevent syphilis infections. Ken Mayer, medical research director at Boston's Fenway Community Health Center, added that improved HIV antiretroviral treatments may have led sexually active people, particularly gay and bisexual men, to be less diligent about practicing safer sex.