Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

As expected, syphilis cases in SF declined in ’09

San Francisco STD officials reported Friday, January 29 that the city has begun to turnaround a sudden spike in syphilis cases among gay and bisexual men that was first detected in 2008.

According to preliminary data for 2009, the city registered a 4.2 percent decline in syphilis cases, falling from 547 cases in 2008 to 524 cases last year. The drop was not unexpected, as the Bay Area Reporter reported in November that health officials were predicting a fall off in rates of syphilis cases.

At the time health officials had predicted (quite accurately as it turns out) that if current trends held then the total number of syphilis cases in 2009 would total 548. The number of cases is slightly less than the 552 cases recorded in 2004, when syphilis cases began a steady decline that lasted for the next four years.

Syphilis cases in San Francisco are predominately among men who have sex with men. And while STD prevention officials demur when asked what has led to the downward trend in new cases, the decline has coincided with the re-launch of the city’s heralded Healthy Penis prevention campaign. [One of the posters used this year is posted above.]

The city also recorded drops in cases of gonorrhea last year, although cases of chlamydia spiked upwards. Overall reported chlamydia cases increased from 4,120 to 4,169 (1.2 percent) while rectal chlamydia increased in 2009 from 666 to 740 cases for an 11.1 percent annual increase.

Often one caveat given for increases in rectal chlamydia is more testing for the STD rather than unsafe sex practices among gay and bisexual men.

Reported gonorrhea cases declined 9.8 percent from 2,008 cases in 2008 to 1,812 in 2009. Additionally, rectal gonorrhea among men declined from 465 cases to 457 – a 1.7 percent decline.

Health officials recommend that all sexually active men who have sex with men be screened every 3-6 months for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. In addition, all patients with an STD should be treated promptly and should be re-screened in three months.

STD screening is available at San Francisco City Clinic and community clinics such as Magnet, the gay men’s health center in the Castro. For additional information on where to get tested, visit

— Matthew S. Bajko, January 29, 2010 @ 1:15 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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