Syphilis, which had long been thought nearly wiped out because of penicillin,is now starting to make a comeback in a number of European and American cities. The problem, some experts believe, is somewhat connected to people's attitudes about the treatment of HIV, which was the primary sexual health concern of the previous decades. The focus on HIV, combined with the eroding awareness of syphilis, could possibly be the root cause of this resurgence.
For many years, most people have considered syphilis to be a rare, limited problem. First coming into notice during the heyday of the bohemians of the 19th century, it was known to manifest only in the rarest of circumstances. In fact, to the average person, syphilis was hardly enough of a concern to be considered a major sexual health problem. Even the disease's most famous victim, Al Capone, was better known for his criminal empire than for having the disease. Artists from the heyday of the bohemian movement, like Charles Baudelaire and Paul Gauguin, were suspected of having died from the illness, but there was never any confirmation of such. However, if reports from Europe are any sort of indication, then this might not be the case for very long.
The latest sexual health statistics show that the number of cases of people having syphilis are on the rise across Europe. What was once among the rarest diseases, sexually-transmitted or otherwise, may become a more common public health concern, according to some members of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. In yet another break from the traditionally-held tendencies of syphilis cases, the disease is starting to appear in more women and heterosexual men, as opposed to previous instances where the cases were largely confined to homosexual men, with only the occasional straight man found in the mix. The disease, with was once seen as the sexual health equivalent of the Black Plague, was largely removed from the public eye by the widespread use of penicillin.
There has been an unexpected return of cases of the illness in Europe, however, and not in the cities that one would expect. British cities seemed to experience a resurgence of the problem, with an almost tenfold increase in cases for both men and women in London alone. Other cities, such as Amsterdam, Berlin, and Paris also experienced similar events, though most had them on a smaller scale. There are also some experts that believe the trend is starting to make an appearance in the US, with the Center for Disease Control effectively scrapping the plan to eliminate the disease entirely due to the 9,800 reported cases in 2006 alone. European doctors were even reported to have been so off-guard about the problem that most didn't even realize they were looking at cases of syphilis.
Some believe that HIV and AIDS, as well as the treatments for the above, are partially to blame. The introduction of effective treatments that delay the inevitable effects of HIV may have resulted in the public becoming more lenient with regards to protection from sexually transmitted disease. For the time being, most of the cases seem concentrated on gay men who sought other gay men, with statistics showing that most of them were HIV positive. Whether or not this was related to the emergence of websites where HIV-positive men could seek other HIV-positive men for sex is still uncertain, though preliminary analysis of the pertinent data seems to suggest just that.