Aids Weekly Plus
According to the New Mexico Department of Health, the number of syphilis cases in the state increased in 2012. The department’s provisional data show that New Mexico doctors reported 101 cases of primary and secondary syphilis or 4.9 per 100,000 people. This is the highest number and rate since 1988. In 2000, syphilis dropped to the lowest since reporting began in 1941, but from 2001 the disease resurfaced, particularly among men who have sex with men, and some individuals who were coinfected with both HIV and syphilis.
Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward explained that syphilis is only infectious in its early stages; thus, it is important for the disease to be diagnosed in the primary and secondary stages. She noted that when diagnosed early, the disease is easily treated with penicillin. The diagnosis is usually made by blood tests as symptoms may be mild and can be missed, or the symptoms can be confused with those of other diseases.
In 2012, men represented 91 percent of the 101 primary and secondary infections. Also, there is disparity by race and ethnicity. Data show that approximately half of the early syphilis cases in 2012 were among Hispanics, Native Americans had a rate 2.6 times higher than the state rate for all races, and the rate for African Americans was 1.9 times higher. The counties with the highest rate were McKinley, Cibola, San Juan, and Bernalillo.
In March, the Department of Health initiated an indoor media campaign in Albuquerque to remind people to get tested for STDs and, if positive, to get treatment. Testing and treatment are available at the local Public Health Offices. Also, to reduce the chances of disease transmission, it is necessary for all sexual partners to be tested and treated. Testing and treatment sites can be found at http://www.nmhivguide.org/.