In an eerily similar way to how HIV/AIDS was first spread, a heretofore rare sexually transmitted disease some are calling the “new AIDS” is making its way through the male homosexual community in Canada and the U.S.

According to a report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, lymphogranuloma venereum, or LGV, has been identified in 22 homosexual and bisexual men in Canada in recent months, all of whom practice risky sexual behavior – including anal sex without a condom, ingesting the drug crystal meth anally and “fisting.”

Six cases have been identified in Boston, Mass., reports the Associated Press, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed LGV cases in San Francisco, Atlanta, and New York City in the last few months.

LGV is spread in similar ways as is HIV/AIDS – among men who have anonymous sex in bathhouses and via near-anonymous encounters arranged through Internet chat groups, reports the Toronto Globe and Mail.

The medical report notes LGV is a bacterial infection and, unlike AIDS, is easily treatable with antibiotics. Symptoms include small painless lesions on the genitals and swollen glands.

Because LGV creates sores, carriers are more likely to spread HIV because bodily fluid is more likely to get into the bloodstream.

“This is an important public-health and clinical challenge,” Thomas Wong, M.D., director of the community-acquired-infections division of the Public Health Agency of Canada said, according to the Globe and Mail.

Wong says the growth of LGV points to a “safer-sex fatigue,” the popularity of party drugs that strip away inhibitions and the increasingly common practice of anonymous sex.

“LGV isn’t the only sexually transmitted disease we’re seeing. The number of cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia are all increasing,” Wong said.

A form of the STD chlamydia, LGV if left untreated, can cause swelling of the genitals and rectum, and can lead to meningitis, encephalitis and even death.

Though the disease is common in the tropics, it didn’t appear in the industrialized world until 2003, when it infected a group of sex tourists in the Netherlands. LGV then spread to Belgium, France, Germany, Sweden, Britain, the United States and Canada.

One LGV patient at Boston’s Fenway Community Health clinic said he probably acquired the disease while visiting Brazil.

The Canadian report noted none of the men infected with LGV in Canada had travelled abroad recently, but all had the same strain of the disease that is circulating in the Netherlands.

Those infected in Canada engaged in “Internet partnering,” frequented bathhouses, or had sex at rave parties, the report stated.

”We hadn’t seen an LGV case for years,” Dr. Alfred DeMaria, Massachusetts director of communicable disease control, told AP. ”It’s definitely a sign of unsafe sex, and that’s a concern in terms of other sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Now, I think we’re at the point that people need to pay attention to it.”

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