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Syphilis on the rise in Geneva

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12:50 CEST+02:00

The number of people infected with the sexually transmitted disease syphilis doubled in the period 2006 to 2010 in the south-west canton, especially among the gay community, new figures show. 

A total of 57 people were infected with syphilis in Geneva last year, with the total rising to 975 across Switzerland, according to the Federal Office of Public Health.

The proportion of homosexuals with the venereal disease is higher than the Swiss average, accounting for more than 50 percent of all cases.  

The situation has alarmed staff at Checkpoint, a health centre for gay men which has launched an awareness campaign in the French-speaking canton to prevent the disease from spreading further.

Since October 1st, Checkpoint has been offering free detection tests as part of an ongoing Aid against AIDS campaign.

Checkpoint workers have also begun making the tests available at saunas, bars and other places usually frequented by gay men. Those willing to be tested can receive the results of an on-the-spot blood test within 15 minutes.

“The goal is to reach those who would not have the initiative to go to a health centre,” spokesman Vincent Jobin told La Tribune de Genève.

“The problem is that syphilis is often detected quite late because it is not uncomfortable at the beginning,” Jobin told the newspaper.

After a long incubation process, however, the disease can have irreversible consequences for the nervous system. It also seriously increases the risk of contracting HIV.

Gay rights organizations stress that the use of condoms is essential in the prevention of syphilis, while also noting also that the infection can also be transmitted via oral sex.

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