In February, we reported on key findings from our ongoing investigation into increasing infectious syphilis trends in British Columbia. In 2012, BC saw the highest rate of infectious syphilis in more than 30 years, a trend which is continuing in 2013. The majority of cases continue to occur among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM).
In June, the BC Centre for Disease Control released a brief report with more detailed findings from this epidemiological investigation, focusing on cases diagnosed among MSM between 2003 and 2012.
In addition to the information from our previous post, the report highlights a few noteworthy aspects of the ongoing epidemic in BC:
- HIV-positive men are over-represented in the syphilis epidemic, making up approximately 60% of the new diagnoses. Notably, 61% of these men were diagnosed by a family doctor, reminding us of the importance of partnering with private physicians to support STI prevention and routine (quarterly) syphilis screening for sexually active men.
- Partner notification remains an effective element of the public health response to syphilis. Among sexual partners contacted and tested through public health, 21% were positive for syphilis. Many individuals diagnosed with syphilis choose to notify their partners themselves; thus, finding new strategies to support these client-initiated notifications is critical.
- Our epidemic is inter-connected with other syphilis (and STI) epidemics across North America. One-fifth of sexual contacts of recent syphilis cases reside outside of BC.
We still have much to learn about what is driving the epidemic in BC and elsewhere, and what additional efforts may help to stem the epidemic trend.
For more information, please see the full report: Infectious syphilis among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in British Columbia, 2003 to 2012.