In 2019, the U.S. health departments reported that most syphilis cases were found among men and attributed its factors to men sleeping with men (MSM). The health department revealed the STD has increased more than 70 percent since 2015 and it also reached a historic low in 2000. When the department delved more into the data, the research showed syphilis had vastly risen among heterosexual couples while the MSM numbers have remained stable for the past two years.
As syphilis cases continued to rise, health department officials began to notice a trend within the black community. The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) reported within the 2018 STD Surveillance Report, the STD infection rates for African Americans was high compared to other populations that it showcased. The report stated “the disparity between Primary & Secondary syphilis rates for blacks and whites was 4.7 times greater for black females compared to white females and 4.8 times greater for black males compared to white males.”
Sandra Elizabeth Ford, MD, MBA, NACCHO’s Board Vice President stated the “data highlighting the overrepresentation of sexually transmitted diseases in the African-American population is disappointing, but not shocking. Ford said,“More emphasis must be placed on those issues that present barriers to prevention and care of not only STDs but other chronic diseases, such as poverty and lack of insurance, as well as racism. Until we take a hard look at these factors, we will continue to see the broad inequities in disease prevalence that we are currently observing.”
Even though health disparities exist within the black community, NACCHO Chief of Programs and Services, Oscar Alleyne, DrPH, MP says local health departments work hard to reduce STD rates and to provide the communities with prevention and treatment messaging to address the rapid growing STD cases.
If you have been diagnosed with syphilis just remember your doctor will order a blood test and determine the syphilis stage of infection by asking you a few questions to make sure the correct antibiotic is prescribed to treat your condition.
If you are in the early stages, your doctor will give you one shot of penicillin. Treatment within the late stages will require three penicillin shots for three consistent weeks. If syphilis has impacted your nervous system then your physician may provide the penicillin through a IV intravenously once a week for a maximum of two weeks. While you are being treated for syphilis, it is recommended that you do not have sex for at least for a week until after all your symptoms have gone away.
After you have been treated and cured of syphilis, make sure you follow-up with any appointments with your doctor just in case another blood test is needed to confirm that the syphilis is no longer in your system.
Most importantly if you have been diagnosed with syphilis please notify your partner(s) so they can get tested and treated to prevent the STD from spreading to others. Also don’t forget to use condoms and/or dental dams to protect yourself from contracting any other sexually transmitted diseases once you start having sex again.