Nearly one-third of sexually active HIV-positive men who have sex with men are not tested for syphilis at least annually, researchers reported in a recent study, calling the finding “concerning.”
Alex de Voux, PhD, an Epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, and colleagues sought to examine the proportion of sexually active HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) currently in care who were tested for syphilis in the past 3, 6 and 12 months by their HIV care provider.
A 2017 study showed that MSM accounted for more than 60% of syphilis cases nationwide in 2015. In that study, researchers determined that the rate of primary and secondary syphilis in the United States among MSM was 106 times that of men who have sex with women only.
In the current study, the authors noted that guidelines recommend that sexually active MSM, including HIV-positive MSM, be tested at least annually for syphilis, with testing every 3 to 6 months for MSM at elevated risk, and used this timeline to evaluate the group.
De Voux and colleagues used the most recent medical record and interview data collected by the Medical Monitoring Project, a population-based HIV surveillance system, from 2013 to 2014. The data showed that 71% of all sexually active HIV-positive MSM had at least one test for syphilis in the past 12 months. In the past 6 months, only 43% had been tested, and the number dropped to 22% in the past 3 months.
Researchers also examined the frequency of testing in MSM who reported risk factors, including having condomless sex and having sex with two or more partners.
To find free syphilis testing near you, search by zip code on the CDC testing Website: gettested.cdc.gov
For more information about syphilis, its symptoms and treatment, click here.