Study: Rise in STD rate concentrated among men in 2012

Researchers attribute the rise to cultural stigma against gay and bisexual men and lack of access to care

Published January 10, 2014 11:02PM (EST)

  (<a href=''>andipantz</a> via <a href=''>iStock</a>)
(andipantz via iStock)

Syphilis and gonorrhea cases have risen in the United States, at a rate of 11 percent and 4 percent, respectively. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rise in documented cases of syphilis in 2012 can be entirely attributed to men, with a particular concentration among gay and bisexual men, a fact researchers attribute to cultural homophobia and inadequate access to health care.

Both infections are curable with antibiotics, but many people do not get tested and so the infections remain untreated and spread.

“We know that having access to high-quality health care is important to controlling and reducing STDs,” Gail Bolan, director of the CDC’s STD prevention division, told Bloomberg News. “Some of our more-vulnerable populations don’t have access. There are a number of men who come in to our clinic for confidential services because they’re too embarrassed to see their primary care doctors.”

George W. Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California at San Francisco, agreed that homophobia and cultural stigma are major factors in the spread of disease.

“With most of these populations, having a sexually transmitted disease from having sex with another man is highly stigmatized,” he told Bloomberg. “They’d rather not get tested for HIV, syphilis, or whatever. They don’t want it to show up on their records.”

You can read the full report here.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

MORE FROM Katie McDonough

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Access To Health Care Health Care Homophobia Lgbt Health Obamacare Sex Sexuality Stds Sti