Free HIV, syphilis testing available

Since 2010, Missouri health officials have seen a spike in syphilis cases in the St. Louis area, particularly among men who also are infected with HIV.

The trend is especially worrisome because the sores associated with syphilis significantly increase the risk of transmitting or becoming infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

To encourage testing, and in conjunction with National HIV Testing Day Monday, June 27, Washington University School of Medicine is teaming with the City of St. Louis Department of Health to offer free, confidential tests for HIV and syphilis.

HIV testing is available Monday, June 27-Thursday, June 30, and syphilis testing is available Monday, June 27-Wednesday, June 29. Both tests are offered from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the School of Medicine’s Infectious Diseases Clinic at 4570 Children’s Place. No appointment is necessary.

“Testing is crucial because an estimated 20 percent of Americans living with HIV are unaware they are infected,” says infectious diseases specialist Nur Onen, MD, assistant professor of medicine. “The earlier a person is diagnosed, the more likely treatment will be effective. Syphilis can be easily treated with antibiotics if detected early, but testing is important because symptoms are not always apparent.”

For HIV testing, participants will receive a rapid test, with results available in 20 minutes. For syphilis testing, results will be available in 8-10 days from the city’s Department of Health. Those testing positive for HIV or syphilis will be connected to educational and support services and referred for treatment.

In 2010, 70 syphilis cases were reported in the St. Louis area from January-September, mostly among men having sex with men. Fifty-seven percent of the cases occurred in men who also were infected with HIV. By comparison, during the same time period in 2009, 50 syphilis cases were reported, of which 45 percent occurred in individuals infected with HIV.

Across Missouri, 585 new HIV infections were reported in 2010, a rise from 2009, when there were 536 new infections. HIV continues to disproportionately affect those living in the metropolitan areas of St. Louis and Kansas City. In Missouri, St. Louis has the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses and individuals living with HIV.

For questions about testing, please call 314-747-1244 or 314-747-1237.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.