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NYC Reports Rise in Gonorrhea, Syphilis Among Females in First Half of '21 Compared to '19

Cases among people reported as Black or Latino accounted for the majority of female gonorrhea cases and female primary and secondary syphilis cases in the first half of 2021

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What to Know

  • The New York City Health Department has announced an increase in gonorrhea and syphilis cases among Black and Latino females in New York City during the first half of 2021.
  • The Health Department issued a Health Alert noting that from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2021, the city saw a 23% increase in gonorrhea cases and a 17% increase in cases among females of primary and secondary syphilis -- these are the stages when syphilis is considered the most contagious.
  • According to health officials, these inequities in STI rates among the minority groups can be attributed to long-term structural racism, which prevents communities of color from accessing vital resources.

The New York City Health Department has announced an increase in gonorrhea and syphilis cases among Black and Latino females in New York City during the first half of 2021.

The Health Department issued a Health Alert noting that from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2021, the city saw a 23% increase in gonorrhea cases and a 17% increase in cases among females of primary and secondary syphilis -- these are the stages when syphilis is considered the most contagious. According to health officials, the majority of cases are among Black or Latino females.

Cases among people reported as Black or Latino accounted for the majority of female gonorrhea cases (58% of female cases with known race/ethnicity) and female primary and secondary syphilis cases (75%) in the first half of 2021.

According to health officials, these inequities in STI rates among the minority groups can be attributed to long-term structural racism, which prevents communities of color from accessing vital resources.

Additionally, health officials note that screenings for sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, in the Big Apple plummeted during the first half of 2020. The lack of data has made comparisons between 2020 and 2021 difficult.

STIs such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia are common and curable, officials said. However, if left untreated, they can cause lasting and serious health effects.

“We are deeply concerned about increases in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among female New Yorkers, and we know that many New Yorkers have deferred routine sexual health services, such as STI testing, during the pandemic,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. “Sexual health care is essential to a healthy life. If you are sexually active, now is the time to re-engage with routine STI testing so that you can seek treatment as soon as possible if you are positive.”

Health officials recommend that those sexually active under 25 years of age should get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia at least once a year.

In New York City, those who are pregnant must get tested for syphilis three times: at their first prenatal visit, at 28 to 32 weeks of their pregnancy (during their third trimester), and at delivery. Syphilis testing is also indicated for all females at risk of infection, including those who have a sex partner(s) diagnosed with an STI. 

For more information on the city's Sexual Health Clinics, including services, locations, and hours of operation, visit nyc.gov/health/clinics

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