Portland Warns Bi and Gay Men about Syphilis

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 1.25.43 PMHealth officials in the Northwest of the United States are concerned about a syphilis outbreak where 75 percent of the newly infected are bisexual and gay men. They’re not saying that bi and gay men spread syphilis, but recent stats show that they’re getting it more, and may not know they’re spreading it.

If you have syphilis, it’s easier to get HIV as well.

Kim Toevs with Multnomah County Health Department says that syphilis cases are increasing nationwide, but their region has exceeded the national average. The number of cases in one county used to be 10 to 30 a year, but recent years they have reached as high as 240 new cases each year since 2012.

Toevs said that sexually active bisexual and homosexual men are being less vigilant regarding the use of condoms, which is increasing the number of syphilis cases. Toevs is also blaming the increasing use of social media for the upsurge in the STD.

“We’ve also found a link to the increase of social media applications used to meet people online, [which is] true among heterosexuals and gays both,” says Toevs. “The more points of connection with strangers they didn’t know before, the more pathways there are to spread.”

Syphilis can be cured with penicillin, but if it’s untreated, it could lead to hearing loss, blindness and neurological damage. Portland health officials are asking that bisexual and gay men who have more than one partner get tested for syphilis once in every three months.



Mike Szymanski
Mike Szymanski has written about bisexual issues since 1989 and has one of the longest-running regular bisexual columns as the National Bisexuality Examiner. He came out as bisexual in a cover story of Genre magazine, which resulted in more than 50 television appearances, including Ricki Lake, Phil Donahue Show and 20/20. Szymanski won the Lambda Literary Award in 2007 for co-authoring an informative humor book “The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe: Quips, Tips and Lists for Those Who Go Both Ways.” Write him at [email protected]