Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Wages Of Sin: Homosexuals And Bisexuals Fueling Dramatic Rise In Syphilis Cases In Salt Lake County

The "love that dares not speak its name" continues to trigger unspeakable consequences. According to a December 9th, 2009 article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department reports that the number of syphilis cases in Salt Lake County has jumped dramatically during the past decade, from one in 2000 to 36 in 2008. The trend continues this year, with 33 cases as of this post. Homosexuals and bisexuals are identified as the primary cause of the jump. Story also picked up by the Deseret News and KSL Channel 5 (both useful primarily for the public comments)

Although the numbers are small compared with the more than 3,000 county residents infected with chlamydia each year, each case of syphilis worries officials because syphilis can be deadly.

Lynn Beltran, who oversees STD programs for the Salt Lake Valley Health Department, said most cases are in men who have sex with men, which is typical across the country. However, the number of cases seen in women and infants is increasing. About 10 percent of Salt Lake County's cases are among women, who often get it from men who are secretly having sex with men.

Beltran also explained that a person infected with syphilis has up to a fivefold increased risk of contracting HIV, because the ulcers caused by syphilis increase the infectiousness of and susceptibility to HIV, according to the CDC. One-third of patients with syphilis in Salt Lake County also have HIV. HIV infection in the county is also up -- with 72 cases reported as of November 30th. The reason for jumps in both infections are the same.

That means homosexuals and bisexuals are also fueling a rise in HIV cases. Perhaps now we better understand why Romans 6:23 states "The wages of sin is death"

You can read the Health Department's Fact Sheet on syphilis HERE and a CDC Fact Sheet HERE. Syphilis is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, which is passed through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur on the genitals and on the lips and in the mouth, which means it can occur coincident with oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse. Pregnant women can pass it to their fetuses in utero.

Symptoms: Many infected people don't have symptoms for years and can pass the disease without being aware they are infected. The infection is called the "great imitator" because the signs and symptoms look like other diseases. During the primary stage, there is usually a single sore at the infection site that is typically firm, round, small and painless. Without treatment, the infection progresses to the secondary stage, in which a rash develops. Other symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches and fatigue. In 15 percent of people who do not get treated, the infection can damage internal organs and cause paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, dementia and even death. One of the more prominent victims of this disease was Al Capone, who died of paresis, which is a complication of syphilis.

One of the local gay rights lobbies has responded. Lillian Rodriguez, the HIV-prevention coordinator for the Utah Pride Center, said gay men are working to spread the message about the importance of safe sex. She runs three programs for men ages 18 to 29 in which they talk about STDs and prevention. "I want them to think about not just HIV but to think about syphilis, to think about gonorrhea, to think about herpes [and] things they can do to protect themselves."

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