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Syphilis Strikes Back: An Overview of Syphilis in the United States

Syphilis in the United States

April is STD Awareness Month.  Over the next month, the CDC will present a series of posts around this year’s theme, “Syphilis Strikes Back”, to help inform you about real-life implications for your practice and your patients.  You’ll hear it first on Sermo!  To start us off, Dr Gail Bolan is setting the stage with an overview of Syphilis in the United States.

Syphilis Strikes Back: An Overview of Syphilis in the United States

By Dr. Gail Bolan

“The enemy is syphilis,” announced a 1940 Work Projects Administration (WPA) poster. An illustration of military men provided the marching orders of the times—enlist American soldiers in the fight against syphilis. In this WWII era, nearly five percent of draftees had syphilis. The syphilis burden, coupled with the discovery that penicillin could effectively cure the infection, led to an aggressive awareness and prevention campaign whose posters now provide a visual record of life at that time. These actions ushered in a period of dramatic decline in the rates of syphilis.

Syphilis elimination was in our sights a decade ago, but today, reported cases and rates for primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis are the highest they have been in more than 20 years. And it’s been a long time since syphilis was primarily a concern for service men. In fact, rates have increased in every region, a majority of age groups, and across almost every race/ethnicity. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men remain hardest-hit, making up the majority of P&S syphilis cases. Syphilis is also rising among women, which has triggered a surge in congenital syphilis.

For these reasons, throughout April, CDC is promoting the STD Awareness Month theme of ‘Syphilis Strikes Back’ to capture what is happening in the U.S. today. This is not just another arbitrary awareness month. We’re sharing this information with you because it has real-life implications for your practice and your patients.

This is the first blog entry in a series on syphilis prevention that we will be doing throughout the month. I hope these posts not only inform but prompt discussion about the syphilis challenges and opportunities that you face in your work.

Sermo wants to hear from you: Are you seeing syphilis in your community? Are you testing for syphilis? Login or join Sermo to join the conversation.