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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
BRITISH COLUMBIA: Syphilis Infection Rates in B.C. Almost Double in 2012
By Kevin Griffin
June 11, 2013
Vancouver Sun (06.07.2013)

STD case numbers almost doubled in 2012 in British Columbia (BC), Canada, and public health officials have requested that sexually active bisexual and gay men get tested for syphilis. In 2012, health officials reported 371 new syphilis cases, compared to 193 in 2011, a 92-percent increase. Dr. Réka Gustafson, a medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, explained that new case numbers continue to rise so far in 2013, but she could not provide a reason for the increase. Dr. Gustafson noted that STD rates change in cyclical patterns, adding, “We’re seeing similar trends in other cities in Canada and the United States. It may have to do with the way people are choosing their sex partners. We’re not absolutely certain.” New syphilis cases dropped to 47 in 1997, the lowest rate since the 1920s when BC first reported on the disease. By 2006, syphilis rates had increased by more than eight times to 331, the highest number of new infections in the past 30 years until 2012. Approximately 80 percent of new cases occurred among men who have sex with men (MSM), a term that includes bisexual and gay men and men who do not identify themselves as either gay or bisexual. Dr. Gustafson said that in its early stage, syphilis is very curable. She declared, “The really important thing is that people know that it is out there.” She added that MSMs were at increased risk and needed to be tested every three to six months. Gustafson emphasized, “It is entirely curable as long as you know, and the only way to know is to have a test.”