Low Viral Suppression and High HIV Diagnosis Rate Among Men Who Have Sex With Men With Syphilis — Baltimore, Maryland

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The burden of syphilis and HIV among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in Baltimore, Maryland, is substantial. Syphilis and HIV surveillance data were analyzed to characterize MSM with syphilis, including those with repeat infection and HIV coinfection, to strengthen prevention efforts.


MSM 15 years or older from Baltimore City or County diagnosed as having early syphilis in 2010 to 2011 were included. Those previously treated for syphilis in 2007 to 2011 were considered to have repeat syphilis infection. HIV surveillance data were used to identify HIV coinfection and assess viral suppression. For MSM not diagnosed as having HIV at or before their syphilis diagnosis, annual HIV diagnosis rates were estimated, using Baltimore City data.


Of 460 MSM with early syphilis in 2010 or 2011, 92 (20%) had repeat infection; 55% of MSM with a single diagnosis and 86% with repeat infection were HIV coinfected. Among MSM diagnosed as having HIV, viral suppression was low (25%, or 46% of those with a viral load reported). Among Baltimore City MSM without a prior HIV diagnosis, estimated annual HIV diagnosis rates were high (5% for those with 1 syphilis diagnosis, 23% for those with repeat infection).


Baltimore-area MSM with syphilis, particularly those with repeat infection, represent a unique population for whom coinfection with HIV is high. Increasing frequency of syphilis and HIV testing among Baltimore area MSM with a syphilis diagnosis and prioritizing HIV-infected MSM with syphilis in efforts to achieve viral suppression may improve outcomes locally for both infections.

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