Tag Archives: syphilis

The HIV/Syphilis Connection

     Conclusive data now bear out that among men who have sex with men (MSM), those infected with HIV have a much higher syphilis diagnosis rate than those who are HIV-negative.  This disparity varies widely between states, which could be as a result in part by more frequent testing among MSM living with the virus.  Or, the disparity could be minimized by more sexual contacts between the two groups.

     Recently, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers unveiled their findings of the analysis of MSM syphilis diagnosis rates at the 2018 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston.

     According to Poz.com, “Before conducting this analysis, which provided the first estimate of the ratio of syphilis diagnoses among MSM with HIV versus those without, the CDC researchers already knew that the majority of syphilis diagnoses between 2012 and 2016 were among MSM.  During that period, between 48 percent and 57 percent of annual diagnoses among MSM were seen in those who had HIV.”


The “Skinny” on Syphilis

     Syphilis is a bacterial infection (Treponema pallidum) that is most often spread through sexual contact.  Usually, this infection causes the disease over several years.  In its early stages, syphilis causes disease of the genitals, mucous membranes, and skin.

     And if not treated, the infection can lead to serious problems including heart ailments, neurological issues (neurosyphilis), blindness, dementia—and even death. 

     Since 1996, syphilis rates have been increasing in the U.S.—notably among MSM. 

     Red alert:  if you’re infected with HIV, syphilis can hit you harder.  And faster. 


Delving into The Findings

     The researchers reviewed national case report data on syphilis diagnoses from 2014. For their purposes, that included information on the sex of the individual diagnosed, the sex of that individual’s sex partner, and the men’s HIV status.  They limited their analysis to the 34 states that provided data that classified at least 70 percent of the syphilis cases as women, MSM or men who have sex with women only.

     Among all MSM, the diagnosis rate per 100,000 persons across all 34 states was 237.7, ranging between 35.1 in Montana and 618.3 in Mississippi.

     Overall, those HIV-diagnosed MSM had a syphilis diagnosis rate nearly eight times that of their HIV-negative counterparts.  The statewide diagnosis rate per 100,000 persons among HIV-poz MSM ranged between zero in South Dakota and 2,035 in Arizona.  And among HIV-negative MSM, the statewide diagnosis rate per 100,000 persons in this group ranged between 27 in Montana and 496 in Mississippi.      Therefore, in each state, the ratio of HIV-positive versus HIV-negative syphilis diagnoses varied extensively (excluding South Dakota, the one state with no diagnoses). 

     In conclusion: “The CDC researchers speculate that the disparity in syphilis diagnosis rates may be driven in part by a greater rate of testing for the sexually transmitted infection among those MSM living with HIV compared with HIV-negative MSM,” according to Poz.com.  “Additionally, they conjectured that in states with lower syphilis diagnosis ratios between MSM with and without the virus, more sexual interactions between these two groups might have spread the STI more evenly between them.”


syphilis cells

Breaking:  Gay/Bi Guys Driving Up Syphilis Rates

     The following breaking news is disconcerting and sobering—to say the least.  According to Poz.com, the renowned health, life and HIV media outlet, the rate of primary and secondary syphilis in the U.S. is steadily climbing–with MSM (men who have sex with men) driving a 10 percent increase between 2012 and 2013.   “All told, the rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are all rising among men while either remaining stable or dropping among women.”  These stats are included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) annual report entitled Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance. 

     Poz.com continues, “The CDC estimates that the United States sees almost 20 million cases of STDS each year, with half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.  The price tag?  Nearly $16 billion in health care costs. 

     “Since STDs are often not reported to the CDC, the figures of STDs do not paint a full portrait of the various nationwide epidemics.  They can, however, give a sense of the rate of change in new infections.” 

     In 2013, there were 17,375 reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis—a rate of 5.5 per 100,000 persons.  This translates into a 10 percent increase compared to 2012–and represents the largest jump since 1985. 

     According to Poz.com. “The increase was driven entirely by MSM, who accounted for about three quarters of the total number of cases in 2013.  An estimated half of MSM with syphilis are HIV positive.” 

     The media outlet added, “This is of particular significance considering that syphilis can increase the likelihood of both transmitting and contracting HIV.” 

    Therefore, my advice to you:  always wrap it up—and securely–before “gittin’ yo’ groove thang on.”