SF public health officials call for STD testing amid resurgence of syphilis

Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise in San Francisco with the number of women infected with syphilis increasing by 144 percent between 2017 and 2018, the city's Department of Public Health announced Wednesday.

Because syphilis has re-emerged as a significant public health concern, public health officials are encouraging young women, pregnant women, men who have sex with men and transgender people to get tested.

In 2017, 283 infants were born in California with syphilis, health officials said.

Also, between 2013 and 2017, the number of cases of chlamydia in San Francisco spiked by 79 percent. Chlamydia is preventable and can be treated, but if left untreated it can cause health problems and possibly result in infertility, according to public health officials.

In order to reduce the risk of getting infected with an STD, health officials recommend using a condom during sex and getting tested regularly.

"Quite often, someone can have an STD and not show any symptoms. An important way to stop the ongoing spread of STDs is for more people to get checked regularly and talk to their partners about getting checked as well," Dr. Susan Philip, STD Controller of San Francisco, said in a statement.

Public health officials also recommend getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus, which can also be transmitted through sex.

Although STDs are on the rise, the number of HIV infections in the city is going down, with fewer people diagnosed in 2017 than in any other year since the disease was first identified, public health officials said.

The recent low HIV infection rates can be attributed to HIV-positive people using treatment to help prevent the spread and also people who are HIV-negative using PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent infection.

More information about STDs and sexual health, as well as a list of free or low-cost STD testing and treatment services in San Francisco, can be found at www.sfcityclinic.org.