Hey, Broward: You've Probably Got Syphilis

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Hiya, Broward, how goes it? Good, good. End of summer treating you right? Great, glad to hear. Look, thanks for coming today, but I've gotta lay something heavy on you. This is a touchy one to talk about, but listen: Next time you're in the shower, you need to, um, inspect your private parts. Whoa, don't get insulted. It's just that, well, Broward, you've got the highest rate of syphilis in the entire state of Florida, and it's time someone did something about it.

How high? How about a 400 percent increase since 2000. Alarming, no? Exactly; I thought you'd agree with me here.

In 2012 alone, Broward saw 613 new cases of the bacterial infection. The uptick is so sharp, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is mounting a campaign to raise awareness. This month, the organization stuffed 22,000 mailboxes with fliers on the numbers involved with Broward syphilis boom.

"While Broward County has the highest rate of syphilis in the state of Florida, the good news is that syphilis is a curable disease -- one best caught and treated early," AHF's Albert Ruiz told Business Wire. "We encourage any sexually active individual who feels that they may be at risk to come in and get tested and, if necessary, treated."

What doubles the alarm attached to those figures is that the curable disease was nearly knocked out completely from Broward back in 1998. At the time, health officials felt syphilis would be gone from the county in two years. But instead, the trend rocketed in the opposite direction, possibly due to the rise in popularity of bareback sex parties organized online.

Between 2001 and 2002, Broward saw an 88 percent increase in the number of reported cases; by 2003, the CDC listed Fort Lauderdale and Miami among the eight U.S. cities seeing epidemic increases.

Sadder still: Incidents of syphilis are also starting to show up more in newborns. Back in July, the Sun Sentinel reported 21 babies were born with syphilis in Broward and Miami-Dade in 2012, up from 17 in 2011. Fifteen of the 2012 share were in Broward; at the time of the report, doctors had already found six Broward 2013 newborns with the disease.

Not surprisingly, the syphilis rate is keeping pace with the rising numbers on HIV infections. Both diseases hit the gay male demographic hard. Back in 2011, South Florida saw the largest outbreak in the country, with 1,040 new cases turning up in Broward alone.

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