A NEW study shows that a national syphilis screening program increased the number of early syphilis cases detected among gay and bi men in Australia.

The study also showed screening reduced the number of cases of secondary syphilis, which can cause worse symptoms, Healio Infectious Disease News has reported.

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“Rates of syphilis among men who have sex with men have been rising in many countries since the beginning of the 21st century and are now at the highest levels in decades in several regions,” said Dr Eric Chow of the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre.

“Australian guidelines recommend that all men who have sex with men be screened for syphilis at least once a year, with more frequent screening of higher risk men.”

The targeted syphilis screening program substantially increased the number of men tested, including men with HIV, which can be associated with syphilis.

The testing detected over 2,700 early syphilis cases in HIV-negative men, and over 1,000 cases in HIV-positive men. The researchers said there was a correlation between increased testing and fewer cases of more advanced syphilis.

“The Australian study supports and extends previous research demonstrating that targeted, community-supported and adequately resourced campaigns are highly effective at increasing syphilis testing,” said Dr Jeffrey Klausner of the University of California division of infectious diseases.

Screening for syphilis and other STIs is available from GPs, sexual health clinics and rapid testing sites around Australia.

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