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Healthy State tells the stories you need to know to stay well, with a special focus on Florida.We'll bring you the latest fitness trends, new research on preventing and treating disease, and information about how health policy impacts your pocketbook.We report on health using all the tools at our disposal -- video, audio, photos and text -- to bring these stories to life.Healthy State is a project of WUSF Public Media in Tampa and is heard on public radio stations throughout Florida. It also is available online at wusfnews.org.

Hillsborough County Sees Big Spike in STD Cases

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New health department statistics show an alarming jump in sexually transmitted diseases in Hillsborough County.

From last June, there's been a 65 percent increase in cases of syphilis.

Carlos Mercado is the Hillsborough County STD Program Manager. He says the reasons for this vary. 

“We really haven’t been able to pinpoint the specific reason," he says.

"We do know that having unprotected sex, having multiple partners, 77 percent of the cases we’ve investigated are related to MSM, or men having sex with men." 

Something that's alarming since a large percentage of those with syphilis also test positive for HIV.

"Out of all those cases, one of our greatest concerns is that about 40 percent are co-infected with HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS," Mercado says. 

Unlike syphilis, there is no cure for HIV.

Mercado believes part of why Hillsborough has seen the growing number of syphilis cases is because of increased awareness. He says the health department's outreach programs and push to encourage testing for STDs has brought many of those at risk forward.

He encourages everyone to get tested, even those who may not have symptoms of the infection.

"Syphilis can be asymptomatic. There can be no signs and symptoms, so it just goes undetected."

Mercado says there is a small fee to get tested for STDs at the Hillsborough County Health Department --but adds that no one will be turned away for lack of payment.