Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Sexual Health Center

Font Size

Syphilis Skyrockets in U.S.

STDs Raging in Gay/Bisexual Men; Gonorrhea Tests Miss 1 in 3 Infections
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 12, 2008 -- A raging epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in gay/bisexual men drove U.S. syphilis rates up 12% in 2007 -- the seventh consecutive year of syphilis increases.

Meanwhile, a CDC study found that tests for another common STD -- gonorrhea -- miss one in three infections among men who have sex with men.

Those findings alone are troubling enough. But the picture becomes bleaker against the background of a surging HIV epidemic.

"This increase in syphilis represents a major concern for the health of gay and bisexual men," Kevin Fenton, MD, director of the CDC's HIV/AIDS center, said at a news conference. "STDs increase HIV transmission. And if a person is already HIV infected, syphilis can increase viral load [a measure of HIV activity in the body]."

Fenton announced the new STD data at this week's National STD Prevention Conference in Chicago.

Syphilis Surges Again

The syphilis numbers are shocking because just a decade ago, the U.S. was on the verge of eliminating the disease. Now 3.7 out of every 100,000 Americans -- and 6.4 out of every 100,000 American males -- carry the infection, which can cause blindness, brain damage, and death if untreated.

Rates among men are six times higher than rates among women. This, Fenton said, is largely because of huge increases in syphilis infections among men who have sex with men. About 60% of all recent U.S. syphilis infections occurred in these men.

African-Americans continue to be disproportionately affected by syphilis. Syphilis rates are six times higher for African-American men than among white men, and 13 times higher for African-American women than for white women.

Gonorrhea Test Misses Gay/Bi Men

Syphilis and HIV aren't the only diseases spread mainly by unsafe sex. Gonorrhea is also on the rise. One factor, a CDC study suggests, is that doctors miss more than one in three gonorrhea infections in HIV negative gay and bisexual men.

The problem seems to be that doctors aren't testing men who have sex with men in all three body sites where they are likely to be infected: the penis (urethra), the rectum, and the throat.

Today on WebMD

Sex Drive Killers Slideshow
How Healthy is Your Sex Life
HPV Vaccine Future
Couple in bed
HIV Myth Facts
STD Overview
Birth control pills
Herpes Vaccine Study
6 Tips For Teens
things your guy wish you knew slideshow
Tense teen couple
Better Sex Exercises