Chelsea, NYC Syphilis Infection Rate Now Highest In The Nation
The health department recorded 138 new reported cases in Chelsea in 2013 — an infection rate of 93.3 cases per 100,000 people, far higher than the city's average 14 cases per 100,000.
In addition, Chelsea's infection rate was higher than any city in the nation — including San Francisco, which had a rate of 60 cases per 100,000 people in 2013, according to CDC statistics. Rates for neighborhoods within cities across the nation were not immediately available.
When asked to explain the increase in syphilis infections and the large disparity between Chelsea and the rest of NYC, the Department of Health pointed to the increase in sex without condoms among gay and bisexual men.
“In NYC, the vast majority of syphilis cases are among men, specifically men who have sex with men,” the DOH said in a statement, blaming a widespread failure to use condoms. “The increasing syphilis incidence is driven by unprotected sex.”
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.
Frequent testing for syphilis and other STDs is recommended for anyone that may be at risk.
Thoughts, Instincters? Is the increase in syphilis infection something that would encourage you to wear condoms?