Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Reuters Sounds Latest CDC Gay Syphilis Alarm, Ignoring 23% Drop in SF Gays
For more years than I can count, whenever STD experts at the Centers for Disease Control wanted to sound alarms about syphilis in America, they would use data from San Francisco's public health department to bolster their scary messages. Well, that pattern may be coming to an end.
A story from the Reuters news service over the weekend about a new syphilis report from the CDC cites new data that is of concern to me, but interestingly, no stats or data are presented about gay men and syphilis in San Francisco.
Syphilis has risen sharply among gay and bisexual men in the United States this decade, driving up the country's rate for the disease and placing these men at higher risk for AIDS, federal health officials say ...

Gay and bisexual men accounted for 7 percent of syphilis cases in 2000 but more than 60 percent in 2005, CDC experts estimated.

"The most devastating consequence of this increase in syphilis cases would be an increase in the rates of HIV infection," said Dr. Khalil Ghanem of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

"Syphilis and HIV have a close, deadly symbiotic relationship."

I guess this researcher is unaware of an important study from 2004 that found the following good results:
To date, we detected no marked increases in HIV incidence among MSM in 2 HIV-testing populations, concurrent with the syphilis outbreak in San Francisco.
Maybe the federal researchers missed that study, but did they also not see the SF Chronicle story about the findings?:
A steep rise in syphilis cases among gay men in San Francisco has not produced a related increase in HIV infections, researchers reported Tuesday, stirring hope that the city may avoid a new wave of AIDS cases abetted by other sexually transmitted diseases.
As I am well aware, when STD or HIV rates are rising in San Francisco, then CDC experts love to tout the surges, but if the numbers are declining, or in the case of syphilis diagnoses climbing in 2004, but no equal rise in HIV, the data is conveniently overlooked by federal researchers and mainstream reporters.
So what's the most current yearly data on gay syphilis in San Francisco showing?
Syphilis cases of less than one year's duration (including primary, secondary and early latent cases) decreased from 550 cases in 2004 to 426 in 2005, a decrease of 23 percent.

To drive home the point about the 23% drop, SF DPH not only reported it in the annual summary but also in the December 2005 monthly report.

While I believe we should all be concerned about every STD out there, I'm sick and tired of federal health officials using gullible reporters to constantly put out a fearful message about gays and syphilis, and willfully omitting any of the declines in San Francisco's very sexually active gay male community.

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