See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Woe begot top spot 

In most instances Detroit would be happy to be Numero Uno. However, this time it looks like the city has gained the unenviable distinction of leading the nation in syphilis. The Centers for Disease Control is expected to release a report at the end of this month showing that Detroit had the highest rates of syphilis in the country in 2001, with about 35 cases per 100,000 people. This represents a jump from the previous year when Detroit was rated fifth with about 22 syphilis cases per 100,000 people, says Mark Miller, interim STD project officer for Detroit’s Health Department.

“We had our low point in 1996, when we had 95 cases that year” says Miller. “And since then we have had a pretty steady increase with 351 cases last year.”

Miller attributes the increase to risky sexual behavior, such as not using condoms or having multiple partners. He says that when numbers are down, people are less vigilant about protecting themselves. Physicians also tend to overlook symptoms until syphilis rates increase. Some symptoms include genital sores, rashes and hair loss.

Miller says that while syphilis rates have gone down in Nashville and Indianapolis, which had the highest rates in the country, respectively, in 2000, Detroit’s numbers continue to climb.

The Health Department has alerted 700 area doctors of the increased syphilis rates, as well as 100 medical providers in Detroit and Wayne County. The department also is running ads about syphilis on the radio and buses. For more information call 313-876-4176.

Send comments to

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 21, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit