October 5, 2004


‘Not a simple answer’ for desert’s syphilis problem: Epidemic puts rate of Palm Springs cases of disease higher than any city in U.S. (Brian Joseph, October 3, 2004, The Desert Sun)

In the year since health officials warned of a growing syphilis problem here, the alarming but easily curable disease continues to overrun the Coachella Valley.

Despite a year of education and testing efforts, Palm Springs alone has a syphilis rate of 81.8 per 100,000 people in 2003, twice the rate of the nation’s No. 1 city for syphilis, San Francisco.

As of the end of August, 73 cases were reported in Riverside County, compared with 78 during the same period in 2003. In both years, most of the cases were coming from the Coachella Valley.

The disease, health officials say, is being spread in the desert almost exclusively by gay men, many of whom are also HIV-positive.

In other words, syphilis is a symptom, not the disease.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 5, 2004 10:46 AM

The HIV+ gay population would naturally contract other STDs at an elevated rate - If they were inclined to always use protection, they wouldn't be HIV+.

Unfortunately, because Palm Springs is a resort community, there are no doubt dozens of other cases annually that go back home across the US before being diagnosed.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 5, 2004 12:45 PM

Wonder if they can tie the highest reporting periods of cases in the area with seasonal events, such as the college Spring Breakers who flood the area in March.

Posted by: John at October 5, 2004 12:46 PM


Yes, they would be.

Posted by: oj at October 5, 2004 1:01 PM


Palm Springs is a transient homosexual bath house. Note that the actual number of newly syphilitic Palm Springs residents is 'only' 73. That, of course, is the tip of the iceberg. There are undoubtedly hundreds (perhaps thousands) of additional cases of homosexuals who blow in and out of town throughout the fall, winter, and spring, 'partying' for two days straight (pun unintended). Their STDs will be diagnosed, if at all, when they return home after their sybaritic syphilitic Palms Springs holidays, and presumably chalked up to the data base of their home town.

Spring break for lesbians is the Dinah Shore Open in Palm Springs. Don't know about their risk for syphilis, however.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at October 5, 2004 2:41 PM

Wow, I wouldn't have learned that from my daily newspaper, I don't think.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 5, 2004 3:33 PM


Of course, condoms do nothing to prevent the spread of AIDS, I forgot End sarcasm.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 5, 2004 4:41 PM


Indeed, they increased the spread. Men believuing they were having "protected" sex knowingly had it with infected men.

Posted by: oj at October 5, 2004 4:48 PM

Condoms protect against AIDS, although imperfectly.

The biggest problem, with both hetero and homo, isn't slippage, tearing or infiltration, but the "one time" where protection is forgone.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 6, 2004 1:10 AM


Failure rates are not only unacceptably high for a behavior that failure makes deadly, but are significantly higher for anal sex. Repeating the canard that they'll be safe if they use them has contributed to the problem.

Posted by: oj at October 6, 2004 8:58 AM

"Despite a year of education and testing efforts,.."

It's not about knowledge, it's about character. Why do public health officials think that they can educate people into good behavior? How long will the fallacy of "rational man" continue?

Michael & OJ, you're arguing a moot point. I doubt that more than 1% of the people getting these diseases are using condoms.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at October 6, 2004 2:16 PM

Actually, I'm arguing that these men aren't the type to use condoms, and Orrin's arguing that condoms wouldn't have protected them from AIDS, which is partially right, but mostly wrong.

I must agree that using a device with a failure rate above 3% to protect against a fatal disease is a bit of Russian roulette.
However, as they're going to have sex anyway, protected or not, it's clearly better that they use imperfect protection.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 7, 2004 4:37 AM


Men who have hundreds of sexual encounters a year using a method that fails 3% of the time while they're being told it protects them is a scandal. Public health officials caused deaths because they were afraid to be honest.

Posted by: oj at October 7, 2004 8:39 AM