Skip to comments.Internet blamed in spread of syphilis among gays
Posted on 03/11/2004 6:25:50 AM PST by Peter J. Huss
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The Internet has played a significant role in the latest increase in cases of syphilis among gay men by introducing partners more likely to practice high-risk sex, according to a study released on Wednesday.
About 22 percent of homosexual men diagnosed with early stage syphilis reported meeting one or more of their sexual partners through the Internet around the time they were infected, said the study by the Los Angeles Health Department.
Researchers at a national conference in Philadelphia on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases also said they found gays who used the Web to meet sex partners were almost four times as likely to have anonymous sex than non-Internet users. They were also more than twice as likely to use injected drugs as those who found partners more traditionally.
Of gay men who met their partners online, 67 percent were HIV positive, according to the study.
"The Internet is an important venue for conducting STD/HIV prevention and control," said Dr. Getahun Aynalem, an author of the Los Angeles Health Department study.
"Potential public health prevention and control efforts should include interventions like online outreach."
The Internet was one of a number of factors contributing to the rise in syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases among gay men, Aynalem said. Other contributors included the increasing use of the recreational drug crystal methamphetamine and the erectile dysfunction medication Viagra.
Nationally, the incidence of reported syphilis has increased by 18 percent in the last three years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For male homosexuals it has multiplied 12-fold.
Between 1999 and 2003, the proportion of all U.S. syphilis cases among gay men jumped to 60 percent from 5 percent.
The Los Angeles research found that men who went online to find sex partners were more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior than those who found partners elsewhere. For example, of those who said they were the dominant partner in anal sex, 91 percent were Internet users compared with 80 percent who were non-browsers.
The Web can also help control the spread of STDs, researchers said. Online, partners can be notified of a person's sexual history and chat rooms where health counselors can discuss STD prevention and control can be set up.
Latex gloves should do the trick.