The Times podcast: We know how to fix the syphilis surge. Will we do it?

A person carrying a large plastic bag looks at a mobile clinic truck across the street
A mobile clinic provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, in partnership with the People Concern, parks in downtown L.A. over the summer to test people for syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Twenty-one years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that national adult cases of syphilis had reached their lowest levels ever, and entirely eliminating the disease among newborns seemed to be within reach.


But syphilis cases have risen dramatically over the last decade for both adults and infants — even though the disease is curable, and even though we could protect babies by getting pregnant people tested and treated in time.

Today, L.A. Times public health reporter Emily Alpert Reyes discusses this disturbing trend, what it says about our society and how to get the fight against congenital syphilis back on track. We also hear from someone who had a stillbirth because of syphilis and wants everyone to learn from her story.

Host: Gustavo Arellano

Guest: L.A. Times public health reporter Emily Alpert Reyes

More reading:

The number of babies infected with syphilis was already surging. Then came the pandemic

Two crises in one: As drug use rises, so does syphilis

1,306 U.S. infants were born with syphilis in 2018, even though it’s easy to prevent

About The Times

“The Times” is made by columnist Gustavo Arellano, senior producer Denise Guerra and producers Shannon Lin, Melissa Kaplan and Ashlea Brown. Our engineer is Mario Diaz. Our editors are Lauren Raab and Shani O. Hilton. Our theme song was composed by Andrew Eapen.