The New York City Department of Health and Mental Health (DOHMH) reports that cases of primary and secondary syphilis more than doubled in 2001, increasing from 117 cases in 2000 to 282 cases in 2001. DOHMH reports that the increase is primarily due to a recent outbreak of syphilis among gay and bisexual men. Overall, 93 percent of reported cases (263 cases) occurred in men. Among the 198 men who provided information on sexual partners, 159 cases (80 percent) reported male sexual partners. Comparatively, there were 62 cases among gay and bisexual men in 2000 and 33 cases in 1999 (78 percent and 42 percent of cases among men, respectively).
City health officials are particularly concerned about the proportion of gay and bisexual men diagnosed with syphilis in 2001 who were co-infected with HIV (48 percent), and about reports of risk behavior likely due to factors including treatment optimism, prevention burnout, misperceptions of risk, and the impact of other health problems such as depression and substance abuse. DOHMH is acting to increase access to testing, expand partnerships with community-based organizations, and create new initiatives to reduce STD and HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men.
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