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We have seen an increase in syphilis, starting in 2011. In BC, the majority of cases (almost all) are now in men who have sex with men (MSM), many of whom also have HIV.
The increase is possibly due to a number of things.
One factor may be changes in social networks, otherwise known as "who you hang out with and have sex with". If an infection gets into a community or social network, then we tend to see rates increase in the group. Sometimes we see a sudden increase in rates. It may reflect a true increase, or it may be that we did more testing in a network of people. Trends over a longer period may be more accurate.
Changes in how people have sex or sexual practices, such as condom use, could be another factor that plays a part in rising rates in a social network.
Increased rates may be related the natural course of syphilis. There are a number of stages of syphilis, and times when it is more infectious. Click here to learn more about syphilis.
Another factor may be that many times people do not notice signs or symptoms that go along with syphilis, and are not aware they have it. Syphilis is easily passed through oral, genital and anal sex. This is why we recommend routine testing, if you are sexually active and you or your partners have more than one partner.
We will post some more information about syphilis trends in October, when stats for 2011 are available. Please check back with us then.
Please leave a comment to let us know if this answers your question or if you need more info.
This answer was posted on September 21, 2012