Earlier this month the New York State Department of Health, AIDS Institute sent Apicha Community Health Center a memo asking us to pass along information regarding New York States continued increases in syphilis.
As has been reported by Huffington Post previously, new cases of syphilis are increasing in New York State. Some new data has come out that shows in 2013 and 14 there was a 13 percent increase in New York City and a 44 percent increase in Upstate New York. In many Central New York and Capital District counties, the number of cases has more than doubled during this period.
Most of the case are seen in New York City and the surrounding counties. We're seeing the most cases among males, especially gay men and men who have sex with men.
What does this mean for you?
All men in New York State need to be aware of the risk behaviors, signs, and symptoms of syphilis.
Syphilis is transmitted through direct contact with a syphilis sore during anal or oral sex. In men, sores may be found on the penis, anus, in the rectum, scrotum, perianal skin, tongue, on the lips, or in the mouth.
Having unprotected sex, multiple partners, or a new sex partner can all increase the risk of syphilis infection, as well as other STDs and HIV.
Syphilis symptoms include, in the first stage, a painless sore at the infection site (usually genitals, can also be around the areas listed above) that disappears. After that a rash, usually on the hands and feet--this is known as secondary syphilis. These symptoms will go away on their own but the infection is still in the body. Some people who are infected never show these symptoms at all, which is why it's important everyone get tested.
Syphilis increases your risk of getting HIV if you are exposed. Using condoms does reduce the risk of infection through anal sex. Risk for oral exposure is also reduced if you use condoms during oral sex. If you are serosorting or using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV, remember that these strategies do not protect against syphilis and other STDs.
Once detected, syphilis is easy to treat with a penicillin injection. Left untreated it can cause serious and permanent problems including heart problems, dementia, blindness, or death.
What should you do?
If you live in New York City ask your medical provider to tested you for Syphilis or visit one of New York City's STD Clinics. If you do not have a medical provider, make an appointment with Apicha Community Health Center for nonjudgmental, individualized primary care.
If you don't live in New York City, visit www.findSTDtest.com to find a syphilis testing location near you