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Risky Sexual Behavior Increasing Number Of Syphilis Cases

Armen Hareyan's picture

An increasein risky sexual behavior among men who have sex with men has been linked to aresurgence of syphilis cases in Europe, somehealth officials have said recently, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. According to the AP/HeraldTribune, most syphilis cases in Europeare occurring among MSM, although the sexually transmitted infection also isincreasing among heterosexual men and women.

During the last 10 years, syphilis outbreaks have been recorded in countriesacross Europe, the AP/Herald Tribune reports.In England,syphilis incidence increased from one case per 100,000 men in 1997 to ninecases per 100,000 men in 2006, according to the country's Health Protection Agency. In France, therewere 428 syphilis cases in 2003 -- almost 16 times more than in 2000 -- and inthe Netherlands,cases doubled between 2000 and 2004. Similar trends were recorded in Germany and Amsterdam. These increases have in part beenassociated with advances in antiretroviral drugs and the proliferation ofdating Web sites that allow people to find sexual partners more easily,according to the AP/Herald Tribune.

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Marita van de Laar, an expert in STIs at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said that the "evidencepoints to an increase in unsafe sexual behavior since antiretrovirals for AIDScame along in 1996." She added that after decades of being instructed touse condoms and limit the number of sexual partners, some people are sufferingfrom "safe sex fatigue," which has contributed to the increase insyphilis cases. Jonathan Elford, an HIV/AIDS epidemiologist at City University London, said, "Networks of HIV-positive men to find other positive menhave sprung up on the Internet."

In response to the resurgence of syphilis cases, health workers at the Terrence Higgins Trust have launched an Internet campaign, the AP/Herald Tribunereports. THT health workers log into Internet chat rooms on a popular Britishgay dating Web site to spread awareness of safer sex messages and answerquestions from MSM. "We know that men are arranging hookups for sexonline," Mark Thompson, deputy head of THT's health promotion, said addingthat the group "decided to tap into cyberspace to try reaching them beforeunsafe sex might happen." Van de Laar said that it is "definitelyworth trying," adding, "If we don't do enough to stop syphilis in the[MSM] community now, we could potentially be dealing with a much bigger risk inthe future" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/20).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.