- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2001

ATLANTA (AP) Syphilis infections dropped to an all-time low in the United States last year, with fewer than 6,000 cases of the sexually transmitted disease reported nationwide, the government said yesterday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it recorded 5,979 cases, down nearly 10 percent from 1999. Syphilis cases are down 30 percent since 1997, when health officials announced a national plan to eliminate the disease.
Syphilis incidence remains highly concentrated, with half of all U.S. cases showing up in just 22 cities and counties mostly in the South, among poor blacks and Hispanics.
Eighty percent of the nation's counties reported no cases of syphilis in 2000.
Infections are on the rise among homosexual and bisexual men, particularly in large cities.
Other groups posted encouraging statistics. Mother-to-child syphilis transmission is down more than half since 1997, and the rate among blacks has dropped 40 percent over the same time.
The figures were released in Dallas at the start of a three-day conference on how public-private partnerships might help drive the syphilis rate down even further.
The government has considerable work to do to reach its definition of "eliminating" syphilis fewer than 1,000 cases by 2005, with 90 percent of counties syphilis-free.
As a suggestion for counties that still have high syphilis rates, the CDC released results from three places where it provided extra money to test new strategies to combat the disease:
In Davidson County, Tenn., which includes Nashville, free syphilis testing is provided in nontraditional settings, including a mental health center and a library. Anti-syphilis ads appear on city buses and in parks, and the county jail runs a 24-hour syphilis testing and treatment center. The county syphilis rate fell 20 percent from 1999 to 2000.
In Marion County, Ind., home to Indianapolis, a coalition of government, religious groups and private businesses has canvassed the city to educate the public. The county syphilis rate fell 25 percent from 1999 to 2000.
In Wake County, N.C., which includes Raleigh, health officials target syphilis "hot zones," providing on-site testing. Community-outreach and jail programs also have been started. The county syphilis rate fell 27 percent from 1999 to 2000.


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