New syphilis cases and concurrent STI screening in a southeastern U.S. HIV clinic: a call to action

AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2010 Jan;24(1):23-9. doi: 10.1089/apc.2009.0255.


Syphilis outbreaks in the United States have been reported since 2000 with highest rates in the South and many cases among HIV-infected individuals. We evaluated incident syphilis cases and concurrent gonorrhea and chlamydia screening at a southern HIV clinic. A retrospective cohort study included HIV-infected patients with at least one reactive plasma reagin (test for serum reagin antibodies to cardiolipin-cholesterol-lecithin antigen) and primary care visit from July 2004 to June 2007. Primary, secondary, and early latent syphilis cases were identified as incident syphilis and evaluation for gonorrhea and chlamydia within 1 month were described. Logistic regression was performed to determine factors associated with incident syphilis. Among 1544 patients, 40 incident syphilis cases were identified (5 primary, 29 secondary, and 6 early latent). The majority of patients were not virologically suppressed and only 25% had gonorrhea and chlamydia testing. In adjusted analyses, younger age (0.57 per 10 years, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.41-0.80) and minority race (2.26, 95% CI 1.12-4.59) were associated with incident syphilis. Among 40 incident syphilis cases, only 1 in 4 were further tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia. These low rates are concerning as concurrent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) increase risk for HIV transmission. HIV care provider education with emphasis on STI testing in the setting of incident syphilis is key in prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Alabama / epidemiology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Syphilis / complications*
  • Syphilis / diagnosis*
  • Syphilis / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult