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Alexandria Health Department Tries New Approach to Combat Age-Old Infection

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Alexandria, Virginia's health department is taking a new approach to confronting the resurgence of an age-old illness: Syphilis.
Jonathan Wilson
Alexandria, Virginia's health department is taking a new approach to confronting the resurgence of an age-old illness: Syphilis.

Alexandria, Virginia's health department is taking a new approach to confronting the resurgence of an age-old illness: Syphilis.

Debby Dimon is the nurse supervisor for Alexandria's Health Department. She says a decade ago, Alexandria saw three or four cases of Syphilis a year.

"Now we see anywhere from 20 to 30 cases a year, which is significant, given the change and how small of an area we are," she says.

Syphilis was nearly eradicated in the 1990s. But in the U.S., the rate of syphilis infection increased every year from 2001 through 2007. That's the latest year of available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2007, gay men accounted for 65 percent of syphilis cases across the country.

Alexandria started what it calls a Rainbow Tuesdays clinic to this fall to reach out to gay men who need treatment.

Sean -- who didn't want to give his last name -- is one of them. He says its time for everyone to stop thinking of syphilis as a thing of the past.

"Did I think it was possible, for me, in 2008, an educated, professional, gay man to get this?" he asks. "No, I didn't. I thought it was that other person's disease."

The Rainbow Tuesdays clinic is open on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at the Alexandria Health Department. Treatment is free.

Jonathan Wilson reports...

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