What is syphilis?
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis can cause long-term complications and/or death if not adequately treated.
How common is syphilis?
During 2010, there were 45,834 new cases of syphilis, compared to 48,298 estimated new diagnoses of HIV infection and 309,341 cases of gonorrhea. Of syphilis cases, 13,774 were of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis, the earliest and most transmissible stages of syphilis. During the 1990s, syphilis primarily occurred among heterosexual men and women of racial and ethnic minority groups; during the 2000s, however, cases increased among men who have sex with men (MSM). In 2002, rates of P&S syphilis were highest among men 30–39 years-old, but by 2010, were highest among men 20–29 years-old. This epidemiologic shift reflects increasing cases reported among young MSM in recent years. MSM accounted for two thirds (67%) of all P&S syphilis cases in 2010.
Black, Hispanic, and other racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by P&S syphilis in the United States, with black Americans accounting for most of P&S syphilis among individuals who are not MSM.