Translate This Page Print This Page Email a Friend Newsletter Sign-Up
Text Size : Sm Med Lg
Press Releases

New York City Seal
Press Release
New York City Department of Health
Office of Public Affairs
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin/Andrew Tucker
Wednesday, March 6, 2002
(212) 295-5335/5336


DOH to Launch Study on Sharp Syphilis Increases Among Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM)

The New York City Department of Health (DOH) today presented data on a marked increase in reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis in 2001 in New York City, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM), at a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conference on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in San Diego, California.

Preliminary data for 2001 indicate that there were 282 reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis in NYC, a significant rise from the 117 cases reported in 2000, continuing a trend that began in 1999. Of cases of syphilis reported in 2001, 93% occurred among men. Preliminary data indicate that approximately 43% of those men were MSM. New York City is not alone in experiencing sharp increases in cases of syphilis among MSM. Similar trends are also occurring in other U.S. cities, including Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami, and in other large cities in North America and Europe.

Susan Blank, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Commissioner of the Health Department's STD Control Program, said, "DOH saw continuing increases in 2001 in cases of infectious syphilis (primary and secondary), particularly among men who report having sex with men. Additionally, the proportion of men reported with syphilis has recently climbed markedly relative to women. In response to this trend, DOH has initiated a number of activities to interrupt syphilis transmission and is collaborating extensively with community agencies and medical providers, particularly those serving MSM, to provide syphilis prevention and treatment services, to increase awareness about STDs, to encourage safer sex practices, and to step up screenings for sexually transmitted diseases - including HIV and AIDS - among at risk populations."

Reported Syphilis Cases: Number (Rate per 100,000) in NYC, 1995 - 2001
362 (4.9)138 (1.9)97 (1.3)82 (1.1)130 (1.8)117 (1.6)282 (3.5)*
*Preliminary Data

In collaboration with CDC and the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center - a New York City based medical facility dedicated to meeting the healthcare needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and people living with HIV/AIDS - DOH is initiating a case-control study to investigate risk factors for the acquisition of syphilis among MSM. The purpose of the study is to gain insight for the development of intervention strategies to prevent the spread of syphilis both locally and nationally.

In Spring 2001, DOH developed posters and hand-held information cards informing individuals about syphilis and how to get tested. DOH worked with community based organizations to distribute these materials within communities of at risk populations. Additionally, DOH disseminates health advisories and newsletters to healthcare providers to promote screening, prompt diagnosis, treatment, partner management and case reporting of syphilis.

Syphilis is serious, but curable and preventable. Left untreated, however, syphilis can result in serious health consequences. Having syphilis makes it easier to become infected with or spread HIV/AIDS to others. In most cases, syphilis is easily cured with a single injection of penicillin. Penicillin will also stop syphilis infection in exposed persons who have not yet developed symptoms.

The New York City Department of Health's 10 STD clinics, located in each of the five boroughs, provide free diagnosis and treatment on a walk?in basis. Complete treatment guidelines and other STD information are available at Further information on syphilis is available through the City's STD HOTLINE at 212?427?5120, Monday through Friday, from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M., or from your medical provider.