- Health, Wellness & Sports
- Equality Directory
SAN DIEGO -- Nowadays, we all get plenty of text and e-mail reminders: Pick up the dog at the vet. We still on for dinner? Don’t forget your syphilis test!
Syphilis? Didn’t that go out with smallpox, leprosy and the frock coat? Why would I get tested for a disease that seems like nothing more than a Victorian era artifact? Because between 2003 and 2009, the rate of syphilis infection increased 143 percent in San Diego County -- and gay men accounted for about 84 percent of the 2009 cases.
If you are a sexually active gay man, you should be tested every three to six months. And through We All Test, a new service provided by Family Health Centers and the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, you can sign up for a text or e-mail reminder when it is time for your next test.
Syphilis doesn’t behave like most other illnesses. The initial symptoms – skin lesions at the point of contact followed by a rash - disappear in a few weeks, although the infection does not. It can remain latent in your system for decades before it reappears. It can still be spread to others during this latent period.
Syphilis has often been called the “Great Imitator” because it is so often misdiagnosed. All of this makes testing the only sure way to know if you are infected.
Undiagnosed and untreated, syphilis can lead to heart, brain, eye and bone problems; paralysis or dementia, and even death. But it is readily cured with antibiotics. First, though, you have to know you have it.
We All Test is designed to spread the word about the alarming increase in syphilis among gay men in San Diego and to encourage them to sign up for our free text or e-mail reminders.
The campaign will kick off at a free event called “The Doctor Is In” from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at Urban Mo’s in Hillcrest. People are encouraged to dress in medical garb for the event, which will also feature a bachelor auction. The county’s mobile medical van will be parked nearby for anyone who wants to get tested. Sign-ups for the reminder program will be taken.
If you cannot make it on Saturday, you can still get tested at Family Health Center’s Tuesday/Thursday Night Clinic in North Park for gay men and transgender people. This clinic is a safe and comfortable venue for testing, counseling and medical services. More information is available by calling (619) 515-2449.
So go ahead, add getting tested to your hair appointment, oil change and all the other things you do on a regular schedule. We make it easy through We All Test reminders. Additional information about We All Test can be found at WeAllTest.com, including a link for signing up for the reminder program.
Bob Lewis is the director of HIV Services at Family Health Centers of San Diego, a network of non-profit clinics that offers affordable medical, mental health and dental services to all, with a particular focus on the under-served and uninsured.