Syphilis is considered to be a relatively rare disease of our times. Specialists say, though, that this stereotype may soon be broken. Syphilis is normally transmitted through unsafe sex, especially during homosexual contacts. However, the disease continues to spread among heterosexual men and women.
Syphilis used to be considered the curse of creative individuals. French poet Charles Baudelaire, German composer Robert Schumann and painter Paul Gaugiun died because of this infamous disease. The use of penicillin swept the illness out of Europe in the 1950s. However, syphilis has been gradually returning to Europe during the recent decade. Medics explain it with increasing popularity of unsafe sex in Europe’s largest cities such as London, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin.
In Britain syphilis cases have increased almost ten times during the recent ten years. There were 3,702 cases registered there in 2006. In Germany the statistics is alarming too: the rate among men was fewer than two per 100,000 in 1991; by 2003, it was six per 100,000. In France, there were 428 cases in 2003 — almost 16 times the number just three years earlier. In the Netherlands, cases doubled from 2000 to 2004. In Amsterdam, up to 31 men per 100,000 were infected, while the rate was much lower in other regions.
Similar trends have been observed in the USA too. The disease was extremely rare in the United States in 2000. Six years later the situation changed when 9,800 people were diagnosed with syphilis. Many doctors were puzzled about the return of syphilis; some of them had trouble diagnosing it.
Though these days it mainly affects urban gay men, experts worry that the disease could also rebound in the general population if stronger efforts to fight it are not taken soon.
Internet has become especially dangerous at this point. Many HIV-positive men seek sex with other HIV-positive men. Since both partners are infected they prefer not to have safe sex and do not even think about condoms. However, it does not protect them against syphilis. As a result, about a half of HIV-positive homosexuals in Britain suffer from syphilis too.