The rate of syphilis transmission in Chelsea has skyrocketed to more than six times the city's average infection rate – a rise that the city's health department says is primarily being driven by gay men having unprotected sex.
In 2013, the neighborhood had 93.3 syphilis infections per 100,000 people. The city average is 14. Chelsea's infection rate is higher than any city in the nation.
Anthony Hayes of AIDS service organization GMHC said that because syphilis is difficult to detect early on, the disease spreads rapidly.
"In those areas you have a sexual network that are likely unaware that they have syphilis. When you have sexual networks that are unaware that they have something, it is easy for it to multiply more quickly," he explained.
"More people are having unprotected sex … the other thing is it’s really easy to get, you don’t have to just engage in intercourse. You can get it through oral sex,” he added, saying GMHC offers free testing at their West 29th Street clinic.