STD Group Lobbies For $212 Million in Federal Funding to Fight ‘Epidemic’ of Syphilis Among Gay Men

Apr 24, 2015
Health, Safety & Testing
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( – Congress should increase the amount of money it gives to the Centers for Disease Control to prevent sexually transmitted diseases from $157 million to $212 million, a CDC official said on Thursday. She noted the “epidemic” of syphilis among homosexual men, or Men Having Sex With Men (MSM).

“We’re also seeing what we are calling pretty much an epidemic of syphilis among men who have sex with men – that really started in the early – 2000, 2002, but we’ve seen a dramatic increase since 2008,” Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said at a briefing by the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).

Dr. Gail Bolan, director of Centers for Disease Control's Division of STD Prevention, spoke at an event hosted by the National Coalition of STD Directors on April 23, 2015 on Capitol Hill. ( Starr)

Dr. Gail Bolan, director of Centers for Disease Control’s Division of STD Prevention, spoke at an event hosted by the National Coalition of STD Directors on April 23, 2015 on Capitol Hill. ( Starr)

“We actually had some areas of the country that hadn’t seen a case of syphilis back to the late ‘90s and early 2000’s, and we thought we had a chance to eliminate this infection but we’re now challenged with this current epidemic,” Bolan said.

That epidemic is also spreading to the larger population, Bolan said, citing data that “reflects men who have sex with both men and women and that clearly has been slowly increasing since 2008.”

In California, Bolan said, there has been an increase in cases of ocular syphilis, which infects the eyes and can cause blindness.

“And again the trend is following our trend of syphilis – they’re mainly in HIV-infected MSM,” Boland said of the ocular syphilis. “A few cases have occurred, though, in HIV negative MSM and heterosexuals.”

Bolan spoke about the increasing threat of gonorrhea. In 2013, the CDC released the report, “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States,” which named gonorrhea as one of the Top Three “urgent threats” in the country.

“We’re very concerned about the threat of untreatable gonorrhea,” Bolan said. “Gonorrhea has been determined by the threat report at CDC to be one of the top three urgent threats in this country.

“We are down to the last antibiotic – class of antibiotic — available to treat this organism and this organism has traditionally outsmarted us with every drug we’ve put at it,” Bolan said.

Bolan also said there is a rise in the spread of Shigella, a diarrhea that can be caused by “exposure to feces through sexual contact.” Both the CDC and its European counterpart have reported the spread of Shigella among MSM.

A handout distributed at the event, giving the reasoning for an increase in funding for CDC funding for fiscal year 2016 states that the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention and state and local health departments across the country “need additional federal resources to reverse the alarming and costly trends of STDs.”

“In fiscal year 2016 please support an increase of $54.7 million to ensure those on the front lines of STD prevention have funding to prepare for the emerging threat of drug-resistant gonorrhea, respond to the rising rates of syphilis, and other outbreaks,” the handout states.
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