The Pennsylvania Department of Health in conjunction with the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) has documented an alarming increase in Syphilis cases, primarily among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Allegheny County. As of September 10, 2014, the ACHD has reported 67 cases of early Syphilis which now exceeds the total of 63 cases reported in all of 2013. Here is a breakdown of the data:
· 54% of the cases have been reported individuals under the age of 30
· 96% of the cases reported were male
· 75% of the male cases reported risk factors (had sex with other men)
· 39% of the male cases were co-infected with HIV
You can get Syphilis and not have any symptoms so the only way to know you’re infected is to get tested with a simple blood test. And if you do have symptoms, note that Syphilis has any number of symptoms that can look like symptoms from other diseases. One example is a painless sore that you would get after you are first infected can be confused for an ingrown hair, zipper cut, or other seemingly harmless bump. Another example is a rash over the body that can sometimes (but not always) involve the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. As a result of the uptick in Syphilis cases, we are recommending that all sexually active MSM get a Syphilis test. The PA Department of Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control recommend that all sexually active MSM receive full STD screening (including HIV) annually. The Pitt Men’s Study offers testing for syphilis (as well as testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia) as part of your routine study visit. Free testing is also available at the Allegheny County Department of Health.
To find testing near you, check out the CDC testing database at http://hivtest.cdc.gov/
To find out more about Syphilis specifically, go to http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm
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To find out more about Health Alerts, go to http://pittmensstudy.com/health-alerts/