Human immunodeficiency virus seropositivity in adolescents with syphilis

E. McCabe, L. R. Jaffe, A. Diaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective. The purpose of this study was to assess the relationship between syphilis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among innercity, minority group adolescents. Methods. From August 1989 through June 1990, serum from all positive serologic tests for syphilis, obtained from patients attending a comprehensive adolescent health center in an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome epicenter and its two school-based clinics, were frozen without patient identifiers and were subsequently screened for HIV by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with confirmatory Western blot for positives. In addition, a retrospective chart review was performed for all patients with a positive serologic test for syphilis during the study period. Results. Of the 59 specimens with a positive syphilis serologic test, 9 (15.3%) were HIV seropositive. Of the patients with syphilis, 57.4% were black and 42.6% were Hispanic; 16.4% were male (mean age 18.1) and 83.6% were female (mean age 17.8). Only 1 subject (female) was an injection drug user; 4 of the male subjects self-identified as having had sex with other males. Of the subjects, 27.8% had primary, 19.7% had secondary, and 52.5% had latent syphilis at the time of diagnosis. A prior or concurrent sexually transmitted disease was present in 90% of the males and 80% of the females; gonorrhea was the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease in the males (89%) and chlamydia was most prevalent in the females (35%). A history of chancroid and/or herpes was present in 16.4% of the subjects. Conclusions. It is concluded that the diagnosis of syphilis in an adolescent is a risk factor for HIV infection. All sexually active adolescents should be routinely screened for syphilis, regardless of sexual practices. Those with syphilis should be specifically counseled about their increased risk for HIV infection and the importance of consistent condom use, and they should be referred for formal HIV pretest counseling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)695-698
Number of pages4
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescents
  • human immunodeficiency virus
  • risk factors
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • syphilis


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