LONDON — Syphilis cases have reached the highest level since 1949 following a rise in unsafe sex as fears about HIV have faded, new figures suggest, the Telegraph reports.
The data shows the number of diagnoses has doubled in five years, with most cases occurring in gay and bisexual men.
It follows warnings from health officials that risky sexual behaviors — including unprotected activity, “chem sex,” the use of “hookup” apps such as Grindr and “poz” parties where HIV-positive men select sexual partners — are fueling the rise, the Telegraph reports.
The figures from Public Health England show 5,920 syphilis diagnoses in 2016, a rise of 12 percent in one year, and a near doubling from 3,001 cases in 2012. PHE said that the cases were mostly associated with transmission in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that’s usually caught by having sex with someone who’s infected. It can usually be treated with a short course of antibiotics, but if left untreated can cause serious long-term problems.
Last year officials warned of increasing outbreaks after a historical decline in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the specter of HIV pandemic encouraged safer sex.
Since then, advances in treatment mean young people with HIV now have near normal life expectancy, while game-changing preventive drugs reduce the chance of transmission by 90 percent, the Telegraph reports.
But the rise in unprotected sex has left increasing numbers exposed to other sexually transmitted infections, experts warn.