Syphilis rates continue to climb among gay and bisexual men in the Seattle area, with cases nearly doubling between 2003 and 2004, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. New syphilis cases in Seattle and King County rose from 76 cases in 2003 to 140 cases in 2004, with the vast majority of the cases reported among gay and bisexual men.
Matthew Golden, director of the sexually transmitted disease program for Public Health for Seattle and King County, says the STD has been on the rise among gay men since 1997 despite public campaigns promoting safer sex and calling for sexually active gay men to be screened and treated for the disease. Golden says use of crystal methamphetamine appears to be associated with many--if not most--of the syphilis infections among gay men.
Health officials worry that rising syphilis rates could indicate that unprotected sex is becoming more commonplace among gay men, which could also put them at risk for HIV infection. However, HIV infection rates among gay men in the area are not climbing, leading AIDS experts to speculate that gay men may be serosorting--having unprotected sex with only partners of the same HIV serostatus, which would help prevent the spread of the virus. Syphilis also is easily transmitted through oral sex, while HIV infections linked with unprotected oral sex are rare, health officials say.