syphilis

Stan Ingold / Alabama Public Radio

All year long at Alabama Public Radio, we’ve been looking at rural health. Many of the challenges residents of these communities face are a lack of doctors and hospitals, and the money to pay for care. For many African-Americans in Alabama, a lack of trust of outsiders and the government. This issue can be traced back to a study conducted by the U.S. government on black men living around Tuskegee. This year marks a twenty year milestone in a federal study of syphilis which still resonates across the country.

Tomorrow marks 20 years since President Bill Clinton formally apologized on behalf of the U.S. government for the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

The purpose of this study was to observe the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in Alabama. The study began in 1932 and lasted until 1972, after a whistleblower exposed information about the research to the press and prompted the government to shut down the program.

A sharp increase in syphilis cases has led the Alabama Department of Public Health to issue a health advisory for north Alabama.  

The ADPH says there's been a 90 percent increase in reported cases over 2015 in Madison County. The department announced Friday that 54 cases have been reported in Madison County in 2016.

Health officials say infection can occur after a person has direct contact with a syphilis sore during sex. Syphilis can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby.