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Syphilis rates rising in China

12th January 2007

28092006_chinastudent1.jpgChina is seeing a rapid increase in the number of cases of the sexually transmitted disease, syphilis, The Lancet reports.

While China virtually eliminated the disease during the austere Maoist era of the 1960s and 1970s, rapid economic growth and a booming sex industry in the last two decades have boosted rates to 5.7 cases per 100,000 people in 2005, compared with just 0.2 cases per 100,000 in 1993.

The disease is spreading fast among commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men, according to the study which involved doctors at China's National Centre for STD Control in Nanjing, and from the University of North Carolina's School of Medicine.

Among commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men, as many as one in 10 to one in five has syphilis.

But syphilis is also spreading quickly in other areas of society. Reports indicate that around 3,400 Chinese babies are being born each year with congenital syphilis contracted in the womb. The figure has risen dramatically since 1991 - by more than 70% each year.

Syphilis infections are an indicator of the prevalence of other STDs, but its presence also helps to fuel the development and spread of HIV.


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