It's that time of year again, when San Francisco public health officials release data from the previous year and send us into new fits of hypochondria and prudishness. The latest cause for alarm: Syphilis cases have been steadily on the rise in S.F. since 2000, which was a historical low point for the disease nationwide. No one is quite sure what to blame on the rise in cases, but some point to more people hooking up on the internet -- as if that wasn't happening in 2000.
The increase is seen disproportionately among gay men and transgendered people, and comes with a parallel rise in cases of gonorrhea which, alarmingly, is becoming increasingly antibiotic resistant! and chlamydia. Last year's report showed an increase in those two diseases, while the rise in syphilis had temporarily calmed down since 2010, when they hit an all-time high in S.F.
The biggest problem is that early-stage syphilis can often be painless, and symptom-free until the first lesions appear, within a few weeks. The lesson, therefore, is to get tested often if you're especially sexually active, and get tested regularly, regardless.