Report: Military syphilis rates are soaring

Capt. Susan Mosier (left), Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 17th Fires Brigade surgeon, teaches a class on sexually transmitted infections while 2nd Lt. Karim Elymani (right), HHB, 17th FiB surgeon cell medical operations officer, translates the class for medical personnel from the Iraqi army's 14th Division during a two-day preventive medicine course held on Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq.

Syphilis is becoming a big problem in the U.S. military, where the rates of sexually transmitted diseases are higher than that of the general population.

According to a report by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, the rate of syphilis in the military has increased by more than 53 percent over the last five years.

Leslie L. Clark and Devin J. Hunt, the authors of the report, believe that the increasing number of military members with syphilis is of great concern because it suggests that some military members are engaging in unsafe sexual practices, which increases the likelihood of them acquiring other sexually transmitted diseases.

The Fayetteville Observer reports that there were 46 cases of syphilis reported in August, and 582 for the 12 months ending in August. The numbers are the highest they have been over a year’s span in the last five years.

Fort Bragg

The Armed Forces Communicable Disease Weekly Report from Oct. 17 stated that there were 19 new cases of syphilis reported at medical treatment facilities among the five branches of the military in the previous 28 days.

According to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center report, the rates of syphilis in the military were significantly higher than the general population. In 2013, the total rate in the military was 40.5, which was significantly higher than the general population which had a rate of 5.6.

The cases of syphilis have surged in North Carolina in recent years. There have been more cases of syphilis reported in the first nine months of 2015 than there was in all of 2014.

According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, there have been 1,227 cases of syphilis reported this year, which is 69.5 percent more than the cases reported in 2010.

In Cumberland County, North Carolina there were 82 syphilis cases reported last year, which is an increase of more than 118 percent from the 37 cases reported in 2010.

Troy Williams, a member of Cumberland County’s HIV task force, said the rise in syphilis cases is a big concern that prompted the task force to launch an awareness campaign specifically targeting syphilis earlier this year.

“If you were to become infected, it makes you more susceptible for other infections such as HIV,” he said.

According to Williams, the campaign was created to help residents, especially young people, understand the risks associated with syphilis.

“It wasn’t just focused on the military population, but we knew they were a variable inside the problem,” he said. “They do have an effect on what goes on here.”


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