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Syphilis rates rising among gay men in Louisiana

Syphilis rates rising among gay men in Louisiana

Louisiana health officials are concerned over a dramatic rise in new syphilis cases among the state's gay and bisexual men, which they worry may be a sign that unprotected sex is becoming more commonplace, The [New Orleans] Times-Picayune reports. Gay men accounted for just three syphilis cases in the state in 2002, but that number rose to 88 cases in 2004. Nationwide, gay and bisexual men accounted for 5% of new syphilis cases in 1991, but that percentage rose to 60% in 2003, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rise in new infections is particularly troubling, health officials say, because it shows that safer sex is on the decline, which can lead to HIV transmissions. Also, infection with syphilis makes it easier to transmit or be infected by HIV because of the open sores associated with the sexually transmitted disease. Many of the new syphilis cases also have been reported in young gay men, who are increasingly engaging in unprotected anal sex, say state health officials. "I'm seeing more and more HIV-positive gay men 19 to 30 years old," James Swire, coordinator of the NO/AIDS Task Force's community outreach programs, told The Times-Picayune. "They need to be talked to."

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