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UCSD Study Suggests Needle Sharing May Spread Syphilis

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Aired 4/28/10

A new study from UCSD suggests sex workers in Mexico may be getting syphilis from sharing dirty needles. The report says injection drug use appears to play a bigger role in syphilis transmission than risky sexual behavior.

— A new study from UCSD suggests sex workers in Mexico may be getting syphilis from sharing dirty needles. The report says injection drug use appears to play a bigger role in syphilis transmission than risky sexual behavior.

UCSD investigators interviewed more than 900 female sex workers in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. The women were asked about condom use and drug habits, and were also tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

Researchers found needle sharing was closely associated with active syphilis, but risky sexual behavior was not a factor.

The report's lead author, Steffanie Strathdee, says it's an international problem.

"It's very common for these women to have US clients," Strathdee pointed out. "In fact, about two-thirds of them have clients from the US. And so this isn't just an epidemic that's affecting Mexico, it's affecting both countries."

Dr. Strathdee says clinics should offer rapid testing and treatment of syphilis, and clean syringes.

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