Syphilis Screening and Diagnosis Among Men Who Have Sex With Men, 2008–2014, 20 U.S. Cities

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Annual screening for syphilis is indicated for all sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM).


Using National HIV Behavioral Surveillance data from 2008, 2011, and 2014, we assessed trends in self-reported syphilis testing and diagnoses in the past 12 months among MSM. We calculated percentages of syphilis screening and diagnosis by selected characteristics for each year. Trends were assessed using Poisson regression models with generalized estimation equations. Analysis of syphilis diagnosis was limited to participants who reported syphilis screening.


Analysis included data from 28,295 sexually active MSM. Overall, 49% of MSM interviewed in 2014 reported syphilis screening, a significant increase from 40% in 2011 and 38% in 2008. In 2014, syphilis screening was most commonly reported by MSM who were aged 25–29 years (56%), HIV positive (68%), and had >10 sexual partners in the past 12 months (65%). The largest increases in syphilis screening between 2008 and 2014 were among MSM aged 30–39 years (37%–52%) and MSM who reported >10 sex partners (48%–65%). Among MSM who reported syphilis screening, the diagnoses of syphilis increased from 9% in 2008 to 11% in 2014. Increases in syphilis diagnosis were observed among MSM who were aged 25–29 years (6%–10%), black (9%–14%), HIV positive (15%–21%), and reported >10 sexual partners (11%–17%).


Although syphilis screening among MSM increased during 2008–2014, less than half of MSM reported recent syphilis screening in 2014. Given continued increases in syphilis among MSM, innovative interventions are needed to improve compliance with screening recommendations.

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