Health Department Reminds New Yorkers That Syphilis, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia Rates Continue To Increase in New York City and The Nation; Expands Public Education Campaign

To prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, Health Department recommends condom use and regular testing; syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics

New campaign will encourage STI testing and run on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Gay Ad Network and Grindr and in bus shelters and subway cars citywide

August 31, 2017 – The Health Department today released new data showing that rates of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea continue to increase, mirroring national trends over the past three years. Get TestedFrom 2015 to 2016, New York City rates of syphilis increased by 27 percent; rates of gonorrhea rose by 13 percent; and rates of chlamydia increased by 6 percent. The vast majority of syphilis and most gonorrhea cases are among men, particularly men who have sex with other men, while women continue to have the highest rates of chlamydia. These increases are related to many factors, including more New Yorkers being tested with improved techniques.

As part of the Health Department’s efforts to address the increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), a new citywide campaign encouraging New Yorkers to get tested will appear in bus shelters and subways and run on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Gay Ad Network and Grindr. This new campaign follows “Bare It All,” a provocative and groundbreaking citywide awareness campaign that emboldens New Yorkers to talk openly with their doctors about their sex lives, drug use and other issues that affect their health. Earlier this year, the City also expanded clinical services and hours of operations at its Sexual Health Clinics (formerly known as STD clinics). Anyone 12 years or older can be tested for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV at the City’s Sexual Health Clinics, even if they have no symptoms.

As part of his plan to End the HIV Epidemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio has invested $23 million annually to reduce the number of new HIV infections, as well as assure a strong STI prevention infrastructure. The investment is unparalleled and places New York City in the best possible position to effectively curb STI increases. 

Get Tested“The increase in rates of sexually transmitted infections is a disturbing national trend that has had a widespread impact on this city,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Fortunately, these infections are easily preventable and treatable when detected early. This year alone, we have revamped our Sexual Health Clinics and expanded services to guarantee all New Yorkers have access to affordable screening and care. All sexually active New Yorkers should play safe, get screened regularly and have fun.” 

“Preventing sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, means using all the tools we have in our prevention toolkit,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Disease Control. “Condoms prevent most STIs, including HIV. HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, and HIV treatment prevent HIV transmission and engage New Yorkers in healthcare that includes regular STI testing. ‘Playing sure’ means using the prevention options that fit your lifestyle and pursuit of sexual satisfaction. Frequent and correct STI testing should be a key component of any sexually active New Yorker’s prevention plan. I am proud to live in a city that emphasizes the sexual health of its residents.”

“Sex is part of human existence. It can contribute to one’s fulfillment and sense of wellbeing, but it can also pose health risks,” said Assistant Commissioner Dr. Susan Blank, Bureau of STD Control. “Short of abstinence – which is not realistic for many New Yorkers – condoms provide the best protection available for syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. New Yorkers should talk to their providers about if and how they have sex, so that their providers can screen for and treat any infections before they lead to long term complications.”

“Sexually transmitted infections continue to be a critical public health issue, particularly among young people,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “The rising rates of infections are alarming, but everyone should take measures to protect themselves. I urge all Brooklynites to take control of their health and get tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, and other infections. Don’t delay and get tested.”

"Awareness and access to care are critical components in containing the spread of STIs like HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea. We need to make sure that New Yorkers, particularly young men who have sex with other men, are educated on the importance of being tested early and often,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “I’m grateful to Mayor de Blasio, DOHMH Commissioner Bassett, and Dr. Daskalakis for their commitment to bringing down the rate of STIs and their ongoing efforts to improve the health and well-being of all New Yorkers."

"Given the alarming increase in the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) across our City and our country, it is critical for New Yorkers to speak frankly with their doctors about their sexual lives and get tested regularly as STIs can be successfully prevented and treated if detected early," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "I applaud the efforts of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for raising further awareness about the importance of embracing a safe and healthy sexual life."

Other relevant data points

  • In 2016, there were 1,939 cases of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis (22.7 cases per 100,000 persons), up from 1,521 cases in 2015 (17.9 cases per 100,000 persons).
  • The neighborhoods with the highest rates of P&S syphilis were all in Manhattan: Chelsea, Central Harlem and Washington Heights.
  • The vast majority of syphilis cases (1,830) are among men, particularly gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM).
  • Chlamydia remains the most commonly reported STI, with 66,748 cases reported in 2016 (780.6 cases per 100,000 persons).
  • The neighborhoods with highest rates of chlamydia are Crotona and Mott Haven in the Bronx and Central Harlem in Manhattan.
  • As in past years, more chlamydia cases were diagnosed among women (38,831 cases; 869.0 cases per 100,000 persons) than men (27,816 cases; 681.5 cases per 100,000 persons). This reflects longstanding national recommendations for annual chlamydia screening of all sexually active women under 25 years of age. Recommendations for screening MSM and others at risk have been developed more recently.
  • There were 19,029 cases of gonorrhea reported in 2016 (222.6 cases per 100,000 persons).
  • The neighborhoods with the highest rates of gonorrhea are Chelsea and Central Harlem in Manhattan and Crown Heights in Brooklyn.
  • Gonorrhea is more common in men (14,548 cases; 356.4 cases per 100,000 persons) than women (4,419 cases; 98.9 cases per 100,000 persons). Though men are less consistently screened than women, the relatively high male rates and noted increases in reported cases of anorectal gonorrhea among men suggest transmission among MSM.
  • Case rates of gonorrhea increased by 18 percent among men and decreased by 4 percent among women from 2015 to 2016.

Many people with STIs have no signs or symptoms. However, untreated STIs can have lasting health effects, including visual and hearing loss, dementia, paralysis, infertility and stillbirth. Having syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia can make it easier to get or spread HIV. The best way to prevent the spread of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia is through condom use, early detection and treatment. Sexually active New Yorkers are encouraged to be open and honest with their doctors about their sexual practices and ask about getting tested for STIs. Testing for these infections is easy, and they are curable with antibiotics. 

Among other recent efforts by the Health Department to prevent and treat STIs are:

Sexual Health Clinics

The City’s eight Sexual Health Clinics operate Monday through Friday, with Saturday hours available at the Riverside and Fort Greene clinics. In addition, the Health Department launched several new programs to address sexual health at the clinics, including HIV Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people at high risk of HIV infection and the JumpstART program, which provides on-site anti-retroviral treatment and connection to care to patients newly diagnosed with HIV.

LGBTQ Health Care Bill of Rights

In June, the Department announced New York City’s first-ever LGBTQ Health Care Bill of Rights, which details health care protections on local, state and federal levels to empower LGBTQ New Yorkers to get the health care they deserve. The bill of rights will be distributed on posters and wallet cards at clinics and health centers across the city.

#PlaySure Kit

In December 2015, the Health Department launched PlaySure – a novel health marketing campaign to prevent HIV and other STIs, followed by StaySure in 2016. The goal of these sex-positive campaigns is to reach all New Yorkers and encourage them to choose their preferred tools to prevent HIV and other STIs, regardless of their HIV status. To complement these efforts, the Health Department developed an innovative safer sex toolkit, the #PlaySure Kit. The #PlaySure Kit can hold everything New Yorkers need to play sure – condoms, lubricant, and their preferred HIV prevention pill (PrEP, PEP, or HIV treatment). Over 135,000 kits have been distributed to New Yorkers since World AIDS Day 2015, when it was originally unveiled. The kit helps New Yorkers design a safer sex plan that fits their sex lives and safer sex practices. #PlaySure Kits are available for free at the Sexual Health Clinics as well as participating community-based organizations and many community events throughout the year. Distribution locations are also available by calling 311.

NYC Condom

In 2016, the Health Department and its partners distributed more than 38 million condoms at 3,500 diverse locations in New York City, including bars, clubs, restaurants, nail salons, barber shops, hospitals, clinics, universities, and community-based organizations. When used correctly and consistently, condoms are highly effective in preventing unintended pregnancies and offer effective protection against most STIs, including HIV. The City’s effort to increase the availability of condoms has contributed to citywide declines in teen pregnancy rates and HIV rates. To find free NYC Condoms, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/condoms. To learn more about condom use and sexual health or to download the free NYC Condom Finder app, please visit facebook.com/NYCcondom.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez, (347) 396-4177

PressOffice@health.nyc.gov