U.S. Sees Surge in Syphilis Cases Among Gay and Bisexual Men


Syphilis cases are on the rise in the U.S. among gay and bisexual men according to a new CDC study released on Thursday, Reuters reports:

The increase in syphilis among gay men is a major public health concern, said researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because it indicates sexual behavior that could lead to an increase in HIV transmission.

The U.S. syphilis rate in 2013 was 5.3 cases per 100,000 people, more than twice the all-time low of 2.1 cases per 100,000 people in 2000, the CDC reported. The majority of patients with the disease, which is treatable, were men who had sex with other men.

Strategies that proved effective in lowering heterosexual syphilis rates have not worked as well among gay and bisexual men, said Gail Bolan, director of the CDC's Division of STD Prevention.

Syphilis can lead to blindness and stroke if left untreated.

The federal health agency recommended a prevention effort that includes increased screening for the disease and stresses the importance of using latex condoms, limiting sex partners and encouraging monogamous relationships with partners who do not have a sexually transmitted disease.

Syphilis has reached its highest level since 1995, the AP adds.

Top image: vintage WPA syphilis poster.


  1. Rowan says

    “limiting sex partners and encouraging monogamous relationships with partners who do not have a sexually transmitted disease.”

    The issue is, what is the difference between straight men and gay men? Both are male. Why is one able to limit his sexual activity but not the other?

    I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve gone on gay blogs and there is always a group of men who swear by open relationships and constant sex with different people but don’t see that as an issue, even if they know they probably have an STD.

    It’s like if you’re a whore with no control, own it, don’t get pissy because someone is stating facts. Coming on blogs and trying to encourage others to do the same is childish, immature and vindictive.

  2. Pandion says

    The problem is just anal sex, that it is uniquely, exceptionally dangerous.
    One could have as many partners as he liked, with negligible risk, if he would just do anything in bed but anal sex.

    But no, apparently taking it up the ass is so essential to the life of some that becoming ridden with every disease known to man is an acceptable cost.

  3. Nathan says


    No, sorry, the number of partners has a great deal to do with it. There are plenty of cases of oral syphilis and gonorrhea, so this isn’t just about anal sex. A large number of partners ensures that eventually, an individual will encounter an infected person, and that after infection, that person will then encounter numerous uninfected people whom he can then infect.

    This is all about a warped lifestyle. Not being gay. Being gay is neither warped nor a lifestyle. The warped lifestyle in question is one that consists of large numbers of sex partners, year after year. Simply put, that way of life is highly likely to lead to sickness and early death. We should stop desperately trying to make it “work” (Truvada, sero-sorting, etc) and try promoting a better way of living.

  4. Bryan says

    Did y’all consciously choose graphics that imply that syphilis is some quaint and amusing historical preoccupation on purpose, or was it just the usual subconscious assumption that it’s every gay man’s sacred right to spread STDs without regard for the consequences?

  5. Randy says

    “Why is one able to limit his sexual activity but not the other?”

    Rowan, take a look at around. Starting to look a little crowded, don’t you think? How many billions of straight ejaculations do you think this world can take?

  6. Pandion says


    I never thought, stated, or implied that “being gay” is the problem. The problem is anal sex, and everybody should really stop this asinine equation “anal sex”=”gay sex”.

    I’m gay, 27, I’ve had plenty of sex in my life, but I’ve never felt the need to go anal. And guess what, I’ve never had an STD.

    Is it a coincidence? I don’t think so. Rates of transmission of most STDs are dramatically lower with oral relative to anal sex. Risk is ~0 for frottage, intercrural sex, mutual masturbation.

  7. Steven says

    It is a public health concern that syphilis rates are on the rise. Proper screening is key.

    However, your odds of getting syphilis (1 in 100,000) pale next to your odds of getting in a car crash (1 in 100) or catching a cold (1 in 5.)

    The vast majority of people, even those in open relationships, will never get syphilis. But everyone, open relationship or closed, should get tested for STIs, at least yearly.

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