Syphilis rates in North Carolina are highest since the year 2000, and local health officials are reminding citizens that regular screening is key to prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. The Jackson County Department of Public Health (JCDPH) offers free syphilis testing with no appointment necessary, though recommended to avoid waiting. Additionally, free treatment is available if necessary per the CDC guidelines.
The majority of syphilis cases are reported in males. In calendar year 2014, men made up 90 percent of those diagnosed, and of these new cases most were among men reporting sex with men. Those who are HIV positive are at highest risk of contracting syphilis. In 2014, 48 percent of males diagnosed with syphilis were co-infected with HIV.
“When a sexually transmitted disease goes untreated, it will lead to other issues,” said Evelyn Foust, head of the Communicable Disease Branch in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health. “In the case of syphilis we are seeing a rise in ocular syphilis, which may cause permanent loss of sight. We are urging individuals to be open with their healthcare provider about their sexual health, and for providers to be diligent in proactively screening and educating their patients.”
In January 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated a clinical advisory outlining a national increase in ocular syphilis, and diagnostic and treatment options. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, any patient who presents with classic features of syphilis, or who has had a recent sexual exposure to syphilis, should be treated without waiting for test results.
People should be tested for all STDs if they have been sexually active with more than one partner or with a partner whose STD status is unknown. Free Syphilis and HIV tests are available at the Jackson County Department of Public Health. For more information, call JCDPH at 828-587-8289 or visit http://health.jacksonnc.org/sexual-health.