| JOHN HENRY, JR
ATTENTION CENTRAL OHIO: Syphilis has now reached outbreak proportions here in Franklin County. Due to this pressing health issue within our community, I want to inform and educate our readers on what exactly this means and how to protect yourself and others. While syphilis can be easily and effectively treated with antibiotics, if left untreated, it can have serious health consequences.
According to Columbus Public Health’s HIV/STI Prevention Program Manager, Michael Burnett, RN, DHSc, MSA, BSN, “Syphilis testing is critical to the sexual health and well-being of our community, whether heterosexual or MSM (men who have sex with men). If left untreated, syphilis can lead to many adverse health outcomes including other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), hair and skin disorders, neurological problems, blindness, and death.”
What does it mean when we call it an outbreak? From an epidemiological perspective, “outbreak” and “epidemic” are used synonymously. Typically, outbreak is used to describe a localized phenomenon, while epidemic is a large-scale health crisis. Currently, the syphilis rates in Franklin County are among the highest rates in Ohio and the United States. According to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), “The numbers of infectious early syphilis cases (in Franklin County) have increased by 40% when comparing January-July of 2013 to January-July of 2014.” Dr. Burnett adds that “MSM have disproportionately higher rates of syphilis infection compared to the general population.” Data from the ODH confirms this:
“The majority of infectious syphilis cases in Franklin County are among men, particularly men who have sex with men. Of the cases diagnosed in men, 50% are reported among White men and the other 50% are reported among African American men. Specifically, the most impacted communities are white MSM greater than 40 years of age and African American MSM between 18 and 39 years of age.”
How do you protect yourself? I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, wrap it up! Put a bit more delicately by Dr. Burnett, “Consistent and proper use of barriers including condoms and dams reduces the risk of transmission (of syphilis, HIV and other STIs).” Regular testing for syphilis is also important to avoid infecting others and contain this outbreak. Syphilis testing is a simple blood test.
While some may say needles are not your thing, it is imperative that you get tested. That means everyone. Unless you are celibate, you could be at risk.
Empower yourself and others to take sexual health seriously. Protect yourself from becoming infected, and test regularly, so treatment can be provided, if needed. The end of this outbreak starts with each one of us. Do it for yourself, for your loved ones and for your community.
Symptoms of early syphilis are often misdiagnosed and can include:
Testing Sites: All are free and walk-in
CPH (240 Parsons Avenue)
Monday: 8:00 a.m.-2:15 p.m. & 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Tuesday: 10:00 a.m.-6:15 p.m.
Wednesday: 8:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m.
Thursday: 8:00 a.m.-4:15 p.m. & 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Friday: 8:00 a.m.-4:15 p.m.
ARC (4400 N. High Street)
Tuesday: 4:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Stonewall (1160 N.High Street)
Monday: 1:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
AHF (815 W. Broad Street)
Monday: 5:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Free confidential HIV and STI testing is available at ARC Ohio’s locations. Anonymous HIV testing is available. For more information call 614-299-2437 or visit ARCOhio.org