Syphilis outbreak spurs health dept. to add test sites
Posted by pozlife on June 27, 2008
Posted: June 27, 2008 04:13 PM
Updated: June 27, 2008 04:13 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A big outbreak of syphilis in Marion County has the health department setting up several testing sites, primarily in gay bars. What has health officials especially concerned is that 70 percent of the syphilis victims are HIV positive.
On June 23, there were 72 local cases of syphilis reported. One year ago, there were only 19.
Syphilis cases have been decreasing steadily since 1999 when Dr. Virginia Caine said Indianapolis had the biggest epidemic of the sexually-transmitted disease in the nation.
“Not only are we spreading syphilis, we’re also spreading HIV infections at the same time and that can be a life sentence,” said Dr. Caine.
Dr. Caine said 95 percent of the current victims are young, gay men. Most are Caucasian and 70 percent already have HIV.
“So they’re not as afraid and you know, the younger generation, they’re a little bit more risk takers,” said Dr. Caine.
Now, at local gay bars and bath houses, the health department is setting up syphilis blood test sites.
Metro bar and restaurant owner Chet Van Wye said his gay customers were leery at first.
“Initially, I think some of them were a little shocked to see a testing site here at Metro. But I think most people were open to the idea and realized this is important, we need to do it,” said Van Wye.
Van Wye is grateful for proactive STD programs that the heath department and other organizations are ramping up. Unfortunately, he worries that condom kits passed out at his place and others may be getting tossed aside.
The health department reminds people that condoms, HIV and syphilis blood tests and even treatment is free for those who can’t afford to pay.